Managers are starting to view union representatives as allies in
implementing workplace change, according to research unveiled at the Acas
conference last week.
The survey, called Future of Collectivism, shows that unions are becoming
more business focused and "useful" to employers. Union officials also
feel many employers are showing them a more positive attitude.
Report author Professor William Brown said, "A convergence of interests
has occurred, spurred by legal changes and competitive pressures."
Employers are using unions to facilitate difficult organisational change,
while at the same time trying to restrict their influence on traditional issues
such as pay setting, claims the report.
At the Acas conference in Harrogate, Brown told delegates that the 1999
Employment Relations Act and the direction of EU law have accelerated the rate
at which employers were redesigning their relationships with unions to be more
The Economic and Social Research Council report said senior individuals are
often behind an anti-union stance. Three-quarters of firms that plan to resist
attempts by unions to gain recognition admit they are taking their cue from
anti-union top executives. Improved relations often coincide with the
appointment of a new, senior HR manager.
The research was based on interviews with 60 companies, 34 union officials
and 15 industry body representatives. It found that most companies were partially
unionised without recognition agreements and were being targeted by unions for
Both employers and unions are trying to avoid going down the statutory
recognition route which involves balloting, said Brown.
The research is part of the ESRC’s £4m Future of Work programme.
By Mike Broad