be new to many companies, and we worked hard to raise awareness in the run up to April 2005.I am delighted that the TUC has also been working hard to promote I&C. I know that they have putin place a comprehensive training programme for union representatives and officers. And thereare many good examples of unions and employers working together to produce I&C agreements.A recent example is the agreement reached between Northern Foods and a number of unions,including USDAQ, TGWU, GMB and AMICUS. The aim of that agreement is to enable employeesto get a better understanding of the issues faced by the company and enable dialogue on thoseissues. The agreement states that it will "strengthen existing practices…especially those involvingthe representation of employees by trade unions".Acas has also played a vital role in implementation. John Taylor recently informed me that Acashas carried out over 700 "healthchecks" for businesses. And their on-line training package is beingwidely used.The public sector Code of Practice governing I&C in civil service departments is now in place.Organisations such as the Employers Organisation for Local Government, and NHS Employersare also spreading the message to their members.Employers organisations, such as the EEF, tell us that many firms drew up I&C agreements in therun up to April, and that some are continuing to draw up agreements or to review their communication structures.These are important achievements.We are going in the right direction. The Regulations are beginning to make a difference.
What are the challenges?
But that said, no one would claim that the new culture we seek has yet been created. As withevery major change, it is to be expected there will be doubters. Some will naturally be cautiouswhen faced with what could be a revolutionary change. Some will sit quietly, watching to see howothers react.So, as Acas's recent discussion paper on the I&C Regulations has concluded , "it would takesome courage…to suggest that consultation's time has come in many workplaces".For unions, I recognise there are mixed views on whether I&C is a threat or an opportunity. Inother words, some unions remain fearful that I&C can undermine the traditional collectivebargaining role.Equally, some companies may simply be "going through the motions". Some may see theconsultation process in terms of communication by the employer to the workforce, and not as agenuine dialogue between the employer and the workforce.
What the Government will do
The Government will do what it can to allay these concerns. We must continue to explain andpromote the Regulations. Compliance with the Regulations is important, but we must look beyond