Strike threats lead to employer workshops | 19 October 10

A THREATENED wave of industrial action over Government cuts and changes to workers’ pay and conditions has led a leading law firm to offer employers a crash course on how to deal with strikes.

Ward Hadaway, which has offices in Newcastle and Leeds, is holding a series of half-day workshops designed to give companies and organisations a legal and practical insight on how to cope with industrial action.

The law firm has teamed up with Durham-based training and development company Protostar Leadership Development to offer the courses at venues in Newcastle and Leeds.

The workshops come in the wake of declarations from unions at the annual TUC conference that joint industrial action may take place if ‘attacks’ on jobs, pensions and public services go ahead.

A recent report from PwC warned that up to 500,000 public sector jobs could be lost in the next five years with a matching number lost in the private sector under plans to slash Government spending.

Ward Hadaway employment law partner Harmajinder Hayre, who will be delivering the workshops with Protostar managing director Michael Coates, said the prospect of co-ordinated strike action means organisations have to be prepared for the worst.

Harmajinder has successfully dealt with a range of industrial disputes within both the public and private sectors.

He said: “While no-one wants to see strikes taking place, the prospect of industrial action on a large scale – particularly in the public sector – has grown in recent months and the arrival of the Comprehensive Spending Review is likely to ratchet the tension up still further.

“In 2008, over 750,000 days were lost to strike action and this could pale into insignificance if rumours of co-ordinated industrial action planned for early spring next year turn out to be correct.

“As a result, it is prudent planning for organisations to put in place risk management measures to minimise the disruption caused by industrial action.

“While negotiated settlements can take the heat out of the situation and lessen the damage to workforce relations, organisations also need to know how to respond swiftly and decisively and use their legal rights to deal with industrial action, whether threatened or taking place.”

Recent high-profile cases have seen employers use the law to prevent strikes from taking place or to postpone industrial action.

For example, earlier this year British Airways exploited errors in the balloting process to prevent cabin crew from going on strike during the Easter holidays.

The Ward Hadaway/Protostar workshops will take attendees through the general legal principles governing industrial action, such as the ‘right to strike’, continuity of employment and union immunity from prosecution.

Those taking part will learn more about the balloting process, procedural requirements and injunctions, as well as potential remedies for disputes.

The workshops will also address practical issues such as the effect industrial action has on pay and sickness and what organisations can put in place to maintain a core or statutory service in the event of a strike.

Harmajinder Hayre said: “Employers really need to know where they stand when it comes to strikes – even if industrial action does not directly affect their organisation, it could hit a supplier or a customer and have a range of knock-on effects.

“The workshops will make the picture much clearer and allow organisations to take a sensible and measured approach should the problem arise.”

The workshops take place in Newcastle on November 22nd and Leeds on December 3rd.

To book a place on the Newcastle workshop, please click here.

To book a place on the Leeds workshop, please click here.

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