Wall of Silence Employers
July 8 2003 - The Work Foundation has warned that
the DTI's plans to make organisations consult their employees about business decisions
are facing a huge challenge in trying to change the attitudes
and practice of the many companies hostile to employee consultation and information
The Work Foundation welcomed the DTI's consulation document,
, and the CBI and
TUC's contribution. The Work Foundation also called for a major information and guidance campaign designed to
persuade companies of the benefits of collective consultation, along with targets to
reveal if business practice changes as much as Ministers want.
Will Hutton, chief executive of The Work Foundation, said: "These
proposals have the potential to transform the way this country conducts relations at
work. The DTI's framework approach allows organisations to build on good practice,
and means far more organisations stand to benefit from the new, more productive climate
offered by open dialogue between employers and employees.
"Even the way the proposals have been designed in partnership between
Government, CBI and TUC represents a welcome new model, and gives these controversial
proposals much greater chances of success".
He continued, "The challenge is going to be with the many organisations
for whom a wall of silence has become a way of life in their relations with employees.
The Government's own data shows that consultation is actually declining. Although there
is much excellent practice among leading and progressive employers, Ministers must plan
for a sustained campaign of information and guidance so that the rest of business sees
the benefits of complying with the new legislation.
"Given the scale of change implied by these proposals, it makes sense for
Ministers to target what scale of change they are looking for. The Government's own
Workplace Employee Relations Survey [WERS] regularly reveals the extent of consultation
and should be used to track the impact of these proposals".
"There is also now an onus on the CBI and other employer bodies to take
active steps to help persuade business that productivity and competitiveness stand to
gain from a constructive approach to consultation and the new proposals.
"For the TUC and unions, the challenge is to equip themselves for a new
level of dialogue with employers. In a new era of consultation it will not be enough to
fall back on traditional opposition to business plans. Employers who take consultation
and partnership seriously are entitled to look to workforce representatives for highly
constructive and expert input to their business plans.
"New consultation law is also likely to require a major training offensive
by employers and unions to ensure that representatives are equipped to cope with the
challenges of more frequent and demanding dialogue about business plans. The scale of
the Government's Partnership Fund will need to be reviewed, so that it can help increase
the scale of such training."
The Work Foundation also expressed reservations about the long timescale for
introduction of the legislation. It questioned the case for delaying implementation until
2008 for companies with at least 50 employees, and 2007 for those with at least one