Managing Strikes in the Workplace
For the first time in more than three decades NHS workers have voted to strike over pay. In total 68% of Unison members voted for strike action, with a further 88% indicating they would be willing to take industrial action short of striking. It seems that tensions are running high, but, to date, no date is set for proposed action.
The Ballot was called after Jeremey Hunt decided to ignore recommendations from the NHS Pay Review Body, advising the government to offer all staff blanket pay rise of 1%. The rejection has left many NHS employees both demoralised and demotivated, with some incensed that such a small figure wants considered despite high increases being awarded in the private sector.
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 employee 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.