Unions plan for new winter of discontent

Employers will be faced with an increasingly stormy industrial relations
climate in the coming months after trade unions pledged to fight for a raft of
new employment rights and shorter working hours.

Union leaders used the TUC conference last week as a platform to signal
their determination to push for full employment rights from day one, compulsory
employer pension contributions and improvements in redundancy pay.

Members of the so-called awkward squad, including Bob Crow, leader of the
RMT union, and Tony Woodley of the Transport & General Workers Union, also
demanded the end of the UK’s opt-out from the EU Working Time Regulations,
along with secondary strike powers and better protection for striking staff.

"The lack of progress on employment rights is unacceptable. The bosses
are free to take their own secondary action, but any hint of solidarity from us
and we’re hauled into court. The anti-union laws must go," Crow told TUC
delegates.

However, Susan Anderson, head of HR policy at the CBI said the demands were
totally unrealistic. "These demands should stay in the dustbin of
employment relations where they belong," she said. "This rhetoric
could drive a wedge between employers and the unions."

She urged the unions to spend more time talking with HR directors and to
appreciate the "real workforce" issues such as building skills and
consultation.

Mike Emmott, employee relations expert at the Chartered Institute of
Personnel and Development agreed that giving ground to the unions would prove
disastrous for UK employment relations.

The HR director at Scottish Water, Paul Pagliari, rejected the union
demands, but urged HR to avoid confrontation through partnership working.

"I’m not in favour of more legislation or secondary strike
action," he said, "but we need to be working in partnership,"

By Ross Wigham

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