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Unions going too far, warns CBI

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13th Sep 2006
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The CBI has warned the government that it must resist calls from the TUC that would turn the clock back on improved workplace relations.

According to key findings in the latest annual CBI-Pertemps Employment Trends Survey, published this week, employers are working with employees on the issues that matter to them. Flexible working is being made a reality by the vast majority of employers and all staff are consulted on the areas of importance.

But unions are calling for a raft of new employment rights, which the CBI describes as ‘unnecessary’. These include new collective bargaining rights on pensions and training issues.

The CBI argues that such a move does not reflect current practice, where employers have already accepted they should inform and consult before making major changes to pension schemes and, in any event, legislation came into force in April 2006 to this effect.

The survey highlights that pensions and training lend themselves to consultation with employees rather than to negotiation. Even where a union is recognised, only 16 per cent of employers negotiate on pensions. Half (52 per cent) consult with unions on pensions and 57 per cent do so through their usual staff consultative committees.

CBI’s deputy director-general, John Cridland said: “There is absolutely no justification for new rights to impose collective bargaining on pensions. Making the statutory process a more attractive option to unions would undermine the partnership approach.

“Unions often represent certain sections of the workforce. Older workers, particularly, are more likely to want to secure their defined benefit pension provision – and won’t be interested in defined contribution schemes.”

For training, the TUC wants to prescribe the time staff spend training and are calling for collective bargaining on the issue.

Although the CBI agrees with the interim Leitch Review that the UK needs to raise its game on skills, it argues this will not be achieved, however, through rights being given for time off or negotiations on training. Instead, it says skills needs are best discussed on an individual basis.

”Setting down a blanket prescription for a minimum spend per employee or the number of days spent training would ignore the needs of individuals and introduce damaging adversarial relationships,” John Cridland added.

Other rights being called for by the TUC which are causing the CBI concern are the removal of the Working Time Opt-out and the adoption of the draft Agency Temps Directive as it stands.

But the CBI points out that nearly two-thirds of businesses (64 per cent) are already saying that too much of their senior managers’ time is spent on compliance rather than on growing the business or managing people.

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