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MEDIATION JOURNAL


Advocating mediation in bus iness


Avoid Big Disputes by Working Together


Advice from David Prince, Acas’ Chief Conciliator


Acas is arguably most famous for its role in resolving large scale disputes that would otherwise have massive impacts on business, on the economy, on those who lose earnings by the action; and in the long-term, the effectiveness of the organisation due to a breakdown in workplace relations. And there have been some fairly high profile examples of late! Here, David Prince, Acas’ Chief Conciliator provides tips on how to make the most of your workplace relationships.


Early is always best


Acas works with both parties – the employer and unions – to help prevent the dispute before matters get heated. We provide free advice and support to businesses to get their policies right; and to employees to understand what their rights and responsibilities are. We work closely with Trade Unions and employer representative groups on new guidance, tools and draft templates. And we help both parties to have healthy constructive relationships – so when disputes do arise, there are good processes in place to deal with them and stop them spiralling out of control.


Our experience has shown us that discussing workplace issues early – no matter how big or small – whether it involves an individual or a collective group of union members – can head off problems.


Be open-minded and think about all possible ways forward to resolve things sooner. This results in a significant amount of large scale disputes and individual claims being resolved quickly and before time is wasted and costs incurred. If issues do arise between an individual and their employer – Acas Early Conciliation services are available. See: www.acas.org.uk/earlyconciliation.


What happens when Acas gets involved?


Acas offers a free impartial service to act as a third party in a dispute. We don’t take sides. And we bring a fresh dynamic to the table to open up options which wouldn’t have been considered otherwise, and allow both parties a bit of breathing space. And we help parties to recognise the other’s position and find some middle ground.


Collective or Industrial Disputes Advice for employers:


• Remember an official’s hands can be tied by their committees - they don’t have the same freedoms to negotiate as you


• Officials can be bound by voting processes and consultation before they can agree to a deal


• All of this can take time. Advice for Unions:


• Remember that the employer may be tied by business or wider pressures that are beyond their control


• The way you communicate the details of the proposal to members can be as important as the deal itself


• If a good deal can be negotiated as a condition for avoiding strike action then it could be the best deal for your members too.


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