Workplace conflict predicted to rise as recession lifts

The number of workplace conflicts occurring in the UK could increase as the country emerges from the recession, employment relations service Acas has said.

The conciliation body’s prediction has appeared in a new discussion paper, Riding Out the Storm: Managing Conflict in a Recession and Beyond, published this month, in which it identifies further periods of job uncertainty, low engagement levels, and loss of trust as current key factors in triggering workplace conflict.

The spiralling cost of corporate pension schemes and the need for employers to control costs coming out of the recession could also provide a battleground for management and employees.

Social media could also play a crucial role in terms of industrial action going forward, according to Acas, with e-mails, text messaging and social networking sites enabling groups to organise themselves efficiently among the workforce and the local community.

Peter Harwood, chief conciliator at Acas, said: “As the private sector deals with the impact of the recession on its workforce, the public sector is also preparing for significant cuts. It is essential that employers, managers, and trade union representatives improve communication and engagement, so that potential issues that may cause conflict are aired and listened to, and early action taken.”

Employers presently locked in bitter industrial disputes resulting in strikes or the threat of action include British Airways, British Gas, Hewlett Packard and the Civil Service.

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