UK government urged to ban essential services workers’ strike

The Government should consider banning strikes by workers in essential services as unions shape up to take action against spending cuts, an employers’ group has suggested.

The Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) said there are a number of “high stakes” options open to ministers to try to avoid industrial action by public sector workers.

Improving communication and consultation was suggested, as well as building leadership and management skills, but the CIPD said a ban on strikes by workers involved in essential services should be considered to protect services if there is an upsurge in industrial unrest.

Unions leaders have warned of action against the Government’s clampdown on public spending and the issue will dominate this year’s TUC Congress in Manchester next month.

Mike Emmott, the CIPD’s employee relations adviser, said: “Trade unions have the power to disrupt only if employees trust them more than they trust management. The fundamental need is not to manage the trade unions, it is to manage the employment relationship and communicate the case for change.

“However it is also incumbent on the Government to consider the policy options open to it for reducing the risk of disruptive and damaging industrial action by public service employees, such as banning strike action of those involved in the delivery of essential services. If the Government was forced to go down this route it would be a sign of its failure to make the case for change to public sector employees.

“Government must strive to avoid this situation at all costs as it would mean any attempt at trying to lead through consensus had failed. For the unions too, the stakes are high – if they overplay their hand and take industrial action on issues where they don’t have public sympathy they will create conditions which make it more likely that the Government will implement one of the measures outlined in this paper, aimed at blunting the threat of strike action.

“Both sides have heavy duty weapons available to them but neither has much to gain from deploying them. Unions, Government, frontline workers and public alike have far more to gain from a strategy focused on building trust and avoiding conflict.”

A TUC spokesman said: “Destroying the jobs of hundreds of thousands of public sector workers will put the fragile economic recovery at risk. Of course unions will defend their members’ livelihoods.

“The Government would do better to invest in jobs and growth than pay attention to the CIPD’s unworkable proposals on industrial action law.”

Source: Press Association

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