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Train strike shows limits of union partnerships

first_img Comments are closed. Few in HR would like to swap places with Beverley Shears right now. As HRdirector of South West Trains, she has led the doomed pay negotiations withrail union RMT which have, so far, led to six days strike action, with moreplanned for later this month. Customers, already at their wits end with therailway service in general, will view SWT managers as equally to blame with theunion. The media has roundly criticised the company and even sober pundits haveargued that the present crisis is largely the result of poor HR. Lack oftraining, poor recruitment practices, misguided remuneration strategy, dreadfulnegotiating – you name it, Shears and her colleagues have been accused of it. How much of this is fair? Shears has told Personnel Today (News, pages 1 and3) that the company is on schedule on driver recruitment and has not worsenedthe industry shortage by poaching staff from other companies. If this is to bebelieved, then the real problem is the way the unions have exploited thedisparity between the pay of drivers and other staff, notably guards. You have to sympathise with Shears’ frustration that the strikes have comejust as the company was about to launch a new set of values and behaviours,developed with staff. This is a company trying to be cutting-edge in HR, but itlooks more like a throw-back to the 1970s. Throughout the dispute Shears has offered to go to compulsory arbitration.This echoes calls made by the Industrial Society for the Government tointroduce independent arbitration in disputes which affect the public. Against the backdrop of bland union partnership talk at last week’s AnUManemployee relations conference, the experience of SWT shows that with the bestwill in the world, HR cannot always avert strike action – even in the 21stcentury. By Noel O’Reilly Train strike shows limits of union partnershipsOn 5 Feb 2002 in Personnel Today Previous Article Next Article Related posts:No related photos.last_img read more

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