If you believe what you read in the paper, it’s hard to imagine sometimes that any organisation in the UK is actually managing to successfully complete its pay negotiations without a strike. Those stories don’t make the news. At our recent Strategic Employee Relations network meeting, examples were shared of how organisations are dealing with pay negotiations during the current cost of living crisis. There were examples of pay negotiations being successfully completed as organisations decided that the current climate required a different approach. These, mainly private sector organisations, have recognised the context of high inflation, listened to their employee’s experiences and responded as best they can with creativity and simplicity.
Examples included pay awards with no strings attached, deals that are specifically addressing the pay of the lowest earners and those in key roles, organisations ensuring pay deals are implemented immediately when agreed with no payroll delays and organisations starting talks with their unions earlier than usual to spend valuable time sharing information and understanding perspectives.
Inevitably, there were also examples of protracted negotiations and ACAS involvement, eye-watering pay claims and increased use of social media and leverage by unions that can polarise parties and make settlements harder to achieve.
To give ourselves a bit of respite from pay, we also looked at the use of artificial intelligence in the workplace with a great presentation by Abby Gilbert from the Institute of the future of work. This may not be the group’s most pressing issue for today but it’s an area many of them want to focus on in the coming months as AI replaces some roles, changes roles and changes the way people feel about work in terms of feeling valued, dignity and equality.
Another interesting year of employee relations network meetings draw to a close. Thanks to everyone who has taken part in confidential and thought provoking discussions - from unions, to workplace campaigners and employers. Next year’s agenda is lined up with the new TUC general secretary and the CBI lead for employment policy in the first half of 2023. Joe and I look forward to continue working with our network to do our bit for positive employee and industrial relations.