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New guide launched to make trade union reps aware of the value of mediation

Acas and the TUC have launched a new guide for trade union representatives at today's TUC conference on the benefits of mediation, and how it can complement their role in helping avoid costly disputes.

Trade unions play a role in resolving disputes through informal channels and 73% of union reps said they had spent time on individual disputes.

Speaking at the TUC Congress Ed Sweeney, Acas chairman, said:?"Mediation is a very useful option where formal procedures are unlikely to find a solution and could even make the situation worse. In the past there has been some reluctance to use mediation within the union movement as it was seen as a possible barrier to justice. Despite some apprehension, we are increasingly seeing evidence of trade unions recognising the benefits it can bring to their members."

The new guide seeks to reassure union reps of the benefits of mediation and highlights the type of disputes where it can offer an informal and confidential space to tackle issues. Mediation is particularly useful for bullying and harassment issues and personality clashes that are not always easily dealt with through formal procedures.

TUC general secretary Brendan Barber added: "Unions have always valued resolving workplace disputes in the workplace rather than in the courts wherever possible. The prime purpose of unions is to represent their members at work and seek negotiated solutions to problems.

"We welcome the work of Acas on supporting workplace mediation and recommend this new guide to union negotiators."

Mediation can provide additional ways to help reduce grievances and costly tribunal claims. In 2009/2010 Acas dealt with over 85,000 net employment tribunal cases. One of the key benefits of mediation is that employees are more likely to remain in employment because the issue is dealt with early on.

In 2009, Acas introduced pre-claim conciliation (PCC), a new early conciliation service that deals with potential tribunal claims that have not yet been lodged with the tribunal service. Acas estimates that PCC reduced the number of claims to tribunal by over 5,000 in 2009/10, and hopes to double this reduction in 2010/11.

The new guide covers:

• What happens during mediation

• The role of representatives in mediation and how to support members

• Working with employers to set up mediation arrangements

• How mediation fits with other workplace procedures and agreements

• Trade union reps acting as mediators