Hot topic, part 2: Strike reform

New business secretary Sajid Javid has confirmed that the Tories will push ahead with tougher anti-strike laws. But are these stricter rules to be welcomed? Or could stronger regulation backfire?

HR magazine asked two experts for their opinion.

Barry Pirie, director of people and policy, Wiltshire District council and PPMA president, writes:

"In the past few years there have been a number of employment-related changes to the law, and if there is one common theme it is that it is virtually impossible to predict what their impact will be.

In considering the impact of any change to strike laws I think it is worth taking a step back and looking at where we have come from, where we are today with industrial relations, and the role of HR in all of this.

One success story of the past 20 years across both the private and public sectors has been reshaping HR’s approach to industrial relations. Back in the 1970s and ‘80s
the default employers-unions relationship was adversarial; characterised by walk outs, brinksmanship and an attritional approach to negotiation.

Today employers and unions still have significant differences in their interests but this plays out very differently.

What has changed is the recognition from both sides that you aren’t going to resolve those differences – however great –without dialogue and a good working relationship. It’s not uncommon for organisations to give union and employee representatives places on employee councils, which helps to forge common ground in approaching difficult changes. We are also in an environment where this collaborative dynamic is widely seen as critical in achieving objectives such as employee engagement and effectively managing change.

So in many ways alterations to strike laws change nothing for HR practitioners. Our success is still defined by our ability to take our people with us, to find a fair balance between the interests of the employer and the employee, and to identify and reduce potential areas of conflict."