is the Government's preferred model of industrial relations.
It has been personally promoted by the Prime Minister and is supported
financially through the DTI Partnership at Work Fund. It also
has a wider political context. Whilst the Tories promoted competition
as the solution to all the country's problems the current
is partnership. In Scotland this has a particular significance
as we have a partnership government.
This briefing looks
at partnership working as an industrial relations structure to
assist branches who are considering or responding to partnership
There is no one model
of partnership working. Partnership agreements range from little
more than traditional recognition agreements up to arrangements
which seek to radically change the culture of the way managers
and staff relate in the workplace. In essence partnership seeks
to change industrial relations from an adversarial and confrontational
system to one which promotes greater co-operation and involvement.
In the private sector
partnership agreements usually focus on a trade off between greater
workforce flexibility in return for guarantees on job security.
There is also a greater focus on business issues in the bargaining
structures in an effort to engage the workforce in promoting the
success of the company. In the public sector partnership agreements
cover these issues but with a greater emphasis on service change.
This is achieved through a commitment to early consultation.
In a traditional industrial
relations structure management prepare their proposal in some
detail and present it to the trade unions. There is a period of
consultation followed by negotiation (if terms and conditions
changes are involved) concluding (usually!) in an agreement.
In a partnership agreement
the key difference is involvement at an earlier formulation stage.
Instead of coming to the trade unions with a firm proposal management
come with an outline of the issue enabling the trade unions to
influence the shape of the proposal before it becomes too fixed.
The unions also have a greater role both in implementing and evaluating
is not an industrial relations panacea. It creates many challenges
for branches including:
- Attempts to undermine
collective bargaining under the guise of partnership working
- A partnership agreement
will not change management style overnight
- It is more complex
and time consuming than traditional bargaining/consultation
- Can confuse trade
union and management roles in the mind of members
- Requires well trained
representatives who have a good understanding of the service/business
working can create real opportunities including:
- Influencing business/service
change at an early stage before proposals become fixed
- Improved access
- Promoting a wider
bargaining agenda including training and job security
- Changing management
behaviour from a directive to a more participative, coaching
- Promotes the relevance
and role of trade unions in the workplace
or responding to a management initiative on partnership working
- Define the purpose
of the agreement, common goals and recognise that management
and workers can have some different goals and objectives.
- Identify the benefits
and the risks
- Create robust collective
- Ensure that there
is senior level commitment on both sides
- Establish joint
training for managers and stewards
- Get agreement that
resources including facility time are provided
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