The employer/union partnership comes under pressure for many reasons: mergers, restructuring, resourcing issues, loss of key players, or perceived breaches of trust. If partnership goes wrong, productivity can fall, standards drop, and absenteeism and resignation rates rise. Organisations need to intitutionalise a sustainable approach to partnership and joint working, through communication, training and recruitment for the right skills. Management/union partnership is currently the right approach to employee relations according to many politicians, trades unionists and business people. It is based on mutual trust and respect between the parties, accepting the legitimacy of the interests of the other. It is problem solving approach that seeks agreement without coercion. It requires employee involvement and for their voice to be heard. Partnership is seen at work of a range of issues. Management benefits by employees accepting the business goals. Employees benefit through their employer tackling issues of importance to them, including: equal opportunities, reward, work/life balance, training, health and safety, and work organisation.
Peter Reilly is a Principal Research Fellow at IES and is a consultant to the TUC Partnership Institute. He has researched and consulted widely on employee relations and organisational change, and is the author of Flexibility at Work: Balancing the Interests of Employers and Employees.