Last reviewed 5 August 2022

Employers must engage with their recognised employee representatives and trade unions to avoid issues escalating to strike action.

This is the main finding of research by the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) which shows that a tight labour market, combined with a cost-of-living crisis and falling wages, could fuel further industrial action in the coming months.

The findings, from a YouGov survey of 1075 senior HR professionals and decision-makers in the UK, show 53% of employers agreeing that the UK is entering a new, more unstable period of employment relations (just 16% disagree).

More than twice as many employers agree than disagree that they can expect to face increasing levels of industrial action over the next 12 months (42% agree versus just 20% disagree) while the majority believe that unions provide essential protection for employees from bad management (55% compared with 22% who disagree).

CIPD senior employee relations adviser, Rachel Suff, said: “Collective employee voice and working with representatives can make a real contribution to an organisation’s climate and performance. We are seeing collective unrest bubbling up and pressures like the cost-of-living crisis and the challenging labour market are a recipe for conflict. But there is also a real opportunity to work together and make a positive change to working lives.”

Generally, employers are positive about the employment relations climate in their organisation, the CIPD noted. Almost nine in ten (87%) describe the relations between managers and employees as good and many worked in partnership with their recognised unions during the pandemic.