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Employer groups back Cable line on unions’ right to strike

Business groups have welcomed Vince Cable’s speech this week threatening rules to curb union powers over strike action.

On Tuesday, HR magazine reported the business secretary (pictured) had told the GMB annual congress there was no need at present for a change to the law, but if excessive union mobilisation takes place this year, the Coalition would curb the unions' rights to strike.

In response, Adam Marshall, director of policy at the British Chambers of Commerce (BCC), said: "Vince Cable is right to warn unions against mass strikes in the months ahead. In the current climate, large-scale industrial action would have a significant impact on business confidence and inward investment, which are both critical to the UK's economic recovery.

"The cabinet must also follow through on its promise to relieve the burdens of employment legislation on business - especially for smaller firms. The Government's ongoing review of employment legislation must deliver real improvements on the ground, enabling businesses to take on new staff, expand their operations, and generate growth for UK plc."

The CIPD has also urged the Government to build public sector leadership and management skills and improve communication and consultation to help stave off the worst effects of strike action to come. Mike Emmott, CIPD employee relations adviser, said: "Trade unions have the power to disrupt only if employees trust them more than they trust management. The fundamental need is not to 'manage the trade unions', it is to manage the employment relationship and communicate the case for change. "Government must strive to avoid heavy-handed action at all costs, as it would mean any attempt at trying to lead through consensus had failed. Both Government and trade unions have heavy-duty weapons available to them, but neither has much to gain from deploying them, which is why Vince Cable is only warning that pressure to act may increase if damaging strikes proliferate, rather than actually proposing legislation now.

"Unions, Government, frontline workers and public alike have far more to gain from a strategy focused on building trust and avoiding conflict. The real action is far from the booing and heckling in the conference hall - it is in the frontline engagement between managers and employees and in the presumably mature conversations taking place quietly between ministers and unions."