Workers at a Liverpool biscuit factory are set to go on strike after a dispute over sick pay. This crisis has come about after the sale of the biscuit producer, United Biscuits, to the Turkish Food Group Yildiz. Following the sale, senior management of United Biscuits issued a letter to all employees at the Liverpool factory announcing the suspension of company sick pay with immediate effect and confirming that the new owners are looking to source the products manufactured in Liverpool from elsewhere.
Handling strikes and labour disputes is difficult. One common reaction from an employer faced with the threat of a workers strike is to react rashly with a counter strike. However quick and aggressive actions only adds fuel to the fire, rather than temper the situation. The best course of action for the employer is to try and minimize disruption and begin contingency planning in case the strike goes ahead. Clear communication from the employer stating their position and decision with regard to the strike are recommended, and a good way of helping disgruntled employees seeing the situation from the side of the employer. If direct communications are inadvisable or clearly not working, an employer can call in a mediator to try and broker relationships between both parties,
If and when the strike takes place, there are a number of options open to the employer to help remove problems. For instance, if employees take part in official strike action then it may be possible for the employer to fairly dismiss all of the active employees. It is recommended that the employer draw up a sections criteria justifying dismissal because without a fair selection process, the employer leaves themselves open for accusations of discrimination.
Acas publishes a recommended code of practice for disciplinary and grievance procedures, detailing simple rules which both the employee and employer should follow to handle matters effectively. It is beneficial for the employer to follow the advice given by Acas, because not doing so can increase the likelihood of damages and costs if the tribunal finds them guilty of unfair dismissal.