It seems somehow unreal to think that one of the pillars of the UK industrial scene, ACAS, is over a hundred years old. So, when Becky and I met up with Chair Brendan Barber for the latest Unions21 podcast (embedded above), the role of social partnership in our rapidly changing, and often austere, economy was top of the agenda.
I think you will be both reassured and pleasantly surprised by what you hear. Without giving too much away, is it possible or realistic to see the ACAS of, say, 2025, being at the heart of renewed public policy to encourage and facilitate good standards at work – be that at enterprise or sector level, or both.
It makes sense doesn’t it? We know that workers and firms are more productive when they feel respected and fairly treated. We know that there is a monumental skills gap that we need to fill. We see the positive effects of social partnership in ACAS, and the Low Pay Commission. And we see the results of a proactive rather than passive or non-existent policy on workplace issues from Swedento New Zealand– and in our own NHS.
There is , of course, a cost of not mobilising in this way – entrenched low productivity, increasing individual and collective grievances, a cycle of mistrust and underinvestment.
Why not put established and surviving social partnerships to work as the centre of excellence in economic revival – or in the inevitable and vital contribution good work makes to economic success?
How would it work? How could it work? Listening to the podcast will give you as start, but this is a longer project. The debate and discussion will continue, not least at the Unions21 conference, entitled “The Future of Work”, tickets for which are available here. I hope to see you there.
You can access all the Unions21 podcasts here. Please do download, rate, share, subscribe and above all enjoy!