An employers group has suggested the Government should consider banning strikes by workers in essential services as unions shape up to take action against spending cuts.
The Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development said there were 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 was 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 though 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.”