Beth Farhat: The importance of good industrial relations

Regional secretary of the TUC Beth Farhat says good employers recognise that unions are an asset to support them

Iain Buist Beth Farhat, regional secretary at the Northern TUC
Beth Farhat, regional secretary at the Northern TUC

I was delighted to support a CIPD event with senior HR practitioners in the region last week; sharing best practice in strategic developments and progressive trends in employee relations.

Across the country, unions have engaged with companies to manage the difficulties caused first by the crash and then through a downturn - prolonged by the Government’s austerity policies.

Good industrial relations are all about negotiating - with equal power and respect across the bargaining table. This sensible approach has saved jobs, kept skilled workforces together and managed the costs of pensions.

In keeping with a pragmatic and sensible approach, unions have shown restraint during the bad times but will obviously want to make sure that their members share in the recovery as it comes.

Britain is living through the longest real wage squeeze in over a century. Workers in the UK have suffered a bigger fall in real wages than any other workforce in the world’s top 10 developed economies.

The TUC remains firmly committed to the principle that the most effective means of resolving employment disputes is through the use of internal workplace procedures.

Employers need strong unions. Where they are recognised, unions will seek to negotiate effective procedures with employers, increasing transparency and trust in the workplace. Tackling problems at work at an early stage can prevent disputes from escalating and promote good employment relations.

Timely resolution of disputes can help individuals to remain in employment and assists employers in retaining skilled staff and institutional knowledge and in reducing recruitment and training costs.

Unions play a key role in employee engagement. BIS research published at the end of 2012 shows that if more people were engaged at work £26bn could be added to GDP.

OECD countries with higher productivity than the UK tend to be those with greater collective bargaining coverage such as France, Germany, Holland and Norway.

Unions don’t just make life better for their members; they can save employers money too. For every £1 spent on union facility time employers save between £3 and £5 in dismissal and exit costs according to BIS. Dismissal rates, tribunals and injuries are also lower in unionised workplaces.

We spend the majority of our lives at work and we believe everyone should have the opportunity to fulfil their potential, have access to fair pay, good terms and conditions.

It’s never been more important that we have good industrial relations and employers recognising that unions are an asset in supporting the development of high performance workplaces to take us all forward.

Beth Farhat
Regional Secretary Northern TUC

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