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The Partnership Institute: Winning at Work

17th Jan 2001
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Businesses that work in partnership with trade unions are likely to be more productive, more profitable and more innovative than companies which have poor or non-existent relationships with unions, says the TUC in a new report out today (Wednesday).

Winning at work shows that working in partnership not only makes sound business sense for firms, but also leads to greater job satisfaction and working conditions for employees. The report coincides with the launch of the TUC Partnership Institute - a new consultancy which aims to change the way employers and unions work.

The report reveals that partnership organisations are 34% more likely to enjoy financial performance that is a lot better than average and 24% more likely to experience higher labour productivity growth than non-partnership organisations.

In a concerted effort to make partnership a reality in companies both large and small across the UK, the Institute will be offering advice, expertise and training to union reps and managers on the skills needed to introduce this new, modern approach to industrial relations into their workplaces.

Winning at work says that far from 'cosying up to employers' or failing to defend the interests of union members, partnership is about real decision making and problem solving. It's about unions having more influence over employer behaviour and workers exercising greater control over their working environment.

Where bosses and unions have bitten the bullet and introduced the new, more co-operative, inclusive, and open ways of working, the results are likely to be lower staff turnover, lower absentee rates, greater employee commitment to the business and a greater tendency towards innovation at both shopfloor and boardroom levels.

Winning at work says that organisations which have embraced partnership make fewer people redundant, rarely declare compulsory redundancies, offer higher rates of pay and have shorter average working hours.

The TUC Partnership Institute is being launched this evening (Wednesday) by the Prime Minister, alongside TUC General Secretary John Monks and TUC President Bill Morris at One Whitehall Place, London. Attending the event will be top trade unionists, business leaders, government ministers, MPs and representatives from the Institute's five pilot projects.

The five pilot projects involve unions and employers at the University Hospital Birmingham NHS Trust, Electronic Data Systems in Telford and Swansea, Tranfoods Meat Company in Birkenhead, Barclays Bank in London and Northampton, and British Bakeries Ltd (nationwide).

TUC General Secretary John Monks said: "Elsewhere in Europe, unions tend to have better working relationships with employers than they do here. It's no accident that as a result those countries are more productive. Now the TUC will help UK companies close the gap. If partnership became the accepted way of working in shops, factories and offices across the UK, companies would perform better, and their staff would be better trained and more content at work. We can't turn it around overnight, but our Partnership Institute means to make a difference."

To give a better understanding of how partnership works in practice, Winning at work concentrates on six very different organisations who have introduced change and turned their backs on the 'them and us' attitudes of the 1970s and 1980s. For partnership to make a difference, the TUC report says that both unions and management teams involved must have a shared understanding of the need for change. Building trust is crucial, as are effective communication and an open sharing of information. Partnership must be embedded in the organisation so that it can survive the departure of the key people who started the process as well as any other internal or external pressures.

The report takes a detailed look at how the six

  • textiles company John Heathcoat and Co,
  • Elida Faberge,
  • BAE Systems Airbus UK,
  • AXA Insurance,
  • Wolverhampton Healthcare NHS Trust
  • Bristol City Council Libraries Department

have all made partnership work for them. Now the new Partnership Institute, its Director Sarah Perman, and its 26 new consultants are taking the partnership message to employers and unions yet to embrace the new way of working, but keen to find out more.

For copies of Winning at Work contact:
TUC publications
Trade Union Congress
Congress House
Great Russell Street
London
WC1B 3LS

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