Industrial disputes are in danger of stifling Britain’s economic recovery, according to a new study.
The Economics of Employee Relations by DLA Piper report found that 69 per cent of Midland employers held such fears and a massive 85 per cent anticipate increased industrial trouble in the coming months.
They are calling for Government action on industrial relations laws to counter the threat.
The DLA Piper study of more than 500 senior UK decision makers revealed that 71 per cent of those in the Midlands wanted a change in legislation to bring in a minimum threshold in strike ballots, with 40 per cent of those eligible to vote having to back the call as against the simple majority currently required.
Fifty-three per cent of Midland business leaders favour Government intervention to prevent strikes in the transport and communications industries.
On the eve of Chancellor George Osborne’s announcements on public spending, two thirds of leaders across the UKpredict that industrial action by public sector workers will have a detrimental impact on their business. Nearly a quarter of UK large employers with more than 250 employees see public sector disputes as a significant threat.
Recent high profile examples have included the long-running battles at Royal Mail and British Airways.
However, business leaders in the Midlands were evenly split on whether it is a mistake to make any changes to industrial relations law until economic recovery gains more pace, with 45 per cent of those in the Midlands wanting to wait while 31 per cent were supportive of change now.
Nick Jew, head of employment in the Birmingham office of DLA Piper, said: “As the threat of a double dip recession remains, it is worrying that industrial unrest is on the rise and potentially could thwart economic recovery.
“In a volatile economy, employers face multiple risks and challenges, making it imperative to focus resources and attention on employee relations to protect and nurture performance and profits.
“The study’s findings provide strong encouragement for the Government from business leaders to tighten the laws around strike action. Careful consideration will be required as trade unions already consider existing laws as punitive and disproportionate. A further tightening is bound to bring a greater challenge at a European level based on workers’ human rights.”
Across the UK three out of five industrial disputes are over pay/benefits (47 per cent) and pensions (13 per cent).
Despite the implementation of the Equality Act on October 1, on the national survey just four per cent of employers in companies with more than 250 employees ranked equality and diversity as the most important staff issue for management to address. Employee relations was ranked first by 39 per cent followed by employee commitment at 23 per cent then reward/compensation/benefits (19 per cent) and absence management (15 per cent).