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Information and consultation: Pathways to recognition?

Information and consultation: Pathways to recognition?

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Published by Unions TwentyOne
Gerry Sutcliffe speech to Unions21 Tuesday 20 September 2005
Gerry Sutcliffe speech to Unions21 Tuesday 20 September 2005

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Published by: Unions TwentyOne on Aug 24, 2010
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08/24/2010

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Information and consultation: Pathways to recognition?
Introduction
I'm delighted to be here today to speak on the subject of informationand consultation. As many of you know, I&C is a subject that I feelvery strongly about, and I am pleased to be able to share mythoughts with you.May I begin by paying tribute to the excellent work of Unions 21. Youcontinue to play a key role in promoting debate on modern tradeunionism. The DTI and Unions 21 have in the past joined forces topromote partnership. For example, we have worked wit the IPA(Involvement and Participation Association) on the Moving Partnership On project. I'm sure thisproductive relationship will continue.You asked me here today to provide the Government's latest thinking on I & C and our thoughtson the approach that unions should be taking.
The long term vision
The Government has always had high ambitions for the Information and Consultation regulations.It is an opportunity- to significantly improve the way we work;- to empower employees to contribute even more to the businesses they work for; and- it is an opportunity for unions to demonstrate their value to both employees and employers.Employees deserve to know about the decisions that will have a significant impact on them andtheir livelihoods. They also need to be involved in those decisions. This process goes wider than just taking of those decisions. The consultative process also signifies that employees are valuedand respected.A company's people are the key to its success. So it follows that the way a company treats itspeople is fundamental to that success.Our vision is to see organisations, employees and unions realising the benefits of genuinelyinvolving staff. This means consistently applying "best practice" - not just going through themotions. Only then will a real culture change be achieved.
What is taking place now?
The IC Regulations have now been in force for approximately 5 months. Some of the speakershere today: Sarah Veale - TUC, Keith Sisson - Acas and David Yeandle - EEF all played animportant part in developing the regulations, and I'm grateful to them.These important Regulations gave employees the entitlement to be informed and consulted on anon-going basis about matters that affect them. The Government was keenly aware that I&C would
 
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

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