How to ruin staff side relationships

FlipChary Fairy Tales had an intersting blog post last week on the CIPD’s position to ban union strikes.  The blog makes reference to a CIPD comment that staff side relationships in the public sector are the worst they have ever been.

This got me thinking, as I have to work with a lot of local and regional representatives on a day to day basis around the country.  What I have observed is that the staff side relationships depend on the culture and philosophy of the leaders in the organisation, and primarily the HRD.

This is my list of things that I consider are behaviours or actions that ruin or sustain poor relationship with the unions.

1.  Refuse to compromise, ever.   And avoid all use of pragmatism.

2. View all TUs with suspicion and let this impact your behaviours with them

3. Being unable to justify the business reason for an organisational change, particularly the radical ones.

4. Use language that is too subtle for the message to be heard.  When the change is then announced, it comes as a surprise!

5. Don’t listen to staff.

6. Listen to staff and don’t take action.

7. Listen to staff, make promises and then break them by making a U-turn decision.

8. Take an aggressive approach to policy negotiation, the management of sickness absence or disciplinary issues.

9.  Fail to give the TU’s the “head’s-up” when a significant change is about to be communicated.

10.  Fail to recognise the value that some TU reps bring to the table.

I’ve always advocated good relationships with staff side.  Perhaps it’s because my Dad used to be Chair of his local staff side committee and is now an active TU pensioner?  Perhaps it’s because my uncle was an old-guard Labour MP?  In reality, I think it’s more down to my belief that it’s beneficial to the organisation if the HR Department acts in a way that is fair, listens to it’s staff, is honest and transparent.

We’re going to have interesting times ahead if we continue to demonstrate inappropriate behaviours.  When times are tough, we need to the support of the unions, and alienating them will just make our jobs harder.


4 comments on “How to ruin staff side relationships

  1. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by flipchartft and flipchartft, karenwise. karenwise said: How to ruin staff side relationships: new blog #TU #HR #NHS […]

  2. Glyn Lumley says:

    Great post Karen

    My experience of working with Union officials is that much depends on personal relationships – trust and mutual respect. We will not always agree, but these values must be developed and maintained.

    I often said that Union officials had a more difficult job to do (managing the expectations of their members) than I did from the HR/management side of the table.


  3. Anne says:

    We’ve had such similar experiences, I know. But in all negotiations the individual(s) affected is centre to both sides (employee and union member). Those individuals (or their TU rep) who have been part of good communication from both sides, even if the indiv idual is facing redundancy, suffer less emotional stress. Having supported individuals who had experienced very poor support in previous ER situations, makes me quake at the poor behaviour of HR professionals. We’re ‘people’ people; not ‘ID number’ people – let us not forget that – and show some care!

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