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Voluntary union agreements increasing


The prospect of a statutory right to trade union recognition has led to a leap in voluntary recognition cases being handled by ACAS, according to the latest figures. In the year to August 2000, ACAS was asked to assist in 260 recognition disputes, double the number on average during the 1990s.

With unions and firms anticipating the new right, which came into force in June 2000, there has also been a significant increase in the likelihood of recognition disputes ending with voluntary agreements. In cases handled by ACAS during the last 12 months around half have resulted in an agreement for full trade union recognition. Prior to
1998, such a deal was the outcome in only around one-third of cases.

Statutory trade union recognition, and other issues that are changing the face of employment relations, were discussed at a fringe meeting, organised by ACAS, at the TUC congress today. Speaking at the meeting, entitled "The end of industrial relations as we knew it?", Derek Evans, Chief Conciliator at ACAS, said, "Growing ACAS involvement in these cases reflects the desire among unions and employers to see recognition issues resolved amicably and on a voluntary basis. Our extensive experience in resolving disputes, together with our expertise in building harmonious relationships in the workplace, means we can play a vital role in helping bring about voluntary agreements. Our assistance helps build firm foundations for
fruitful and co-operative relationships."

Also speaking at the meeting, Professor Brian Towers, Professor of Industrial Relations at Nottingham Business School, said, "The introduction of a statutory route to trade union recognition is an important part of the explanation for a halt in declining union membership. Whilst membership is highly unlikely to reach the 1979 heyday of 12 million, there is now clear evidence of a modest, but encouraging, revival.

"However, unions need to devote as much energy as possible to securing voluntary agreements. Enforced recognition holds risks for all sides. For employers and employees, workplace relationships are likely to become strained. For unions, losing a few high profile ballots could damage their reputation, and the perception of union recognition as a whole."


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