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Working together gives competitive edge – Rita Donaghy

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Acas’s Annual Report, published yesterday, highlights the added value that its conciliation service gives to the national economy. Of the 105,304 complaints made to employment tribunals and passed to Acas for possible resolution during 2000/01 only 29% reached a tribunal hearing – saving business a great deal of time and money. And 90% of all collective disputes were resolved, or significant progress made, thanks to Acas’s involvement.

“Of course statistics are only part of the story,” said Rita Donaghy, Acas Chair, “the real added value of what we do is both educational and motivational – we help people learn some basic techniques for building working environments based on mutual trust and co-operation and, thanks to our track record, show them that even the most negative workplace situations can be transformed with clear practical guidance.”

One very positive development during the year was the growing number of employers and employees keen to adopt a partnership approach to employment relations. For example, there was an 80% increase in requests for Acas assistance on voluntary union recognition – up to 384 in 2000/01 – with 66% of the completed cases leading to parties agreeing full union recognition.

Rita Donaghy said: “The issue of recognition demonstrates how, under the Acas umbrella, organisations have the chance to extend discussions to wider management/union questions, bringing longer-term benefits to their employment relations.”

During 2000/01 Acas also worked with over 500 organisations and their workforce representatives on in-depth advisory projects – looking together at how companies tick and how people communicate with each other. By focussing on the prevention of workplace problems, all parts of an organisation can react quickly to external pressures and face crises together.

Another way Acas can help is through its network of telephone helplines. The number of calls taken rose to over 760,000 during the year:

“People call Acas,” said Rita Donaghy, “to help make sense of new regulations, find out about their rights in the workplace and to get quick answers to new problems affecting them, such as the fuel crisis and the foot & mouth outbreak. More and more people are beginning to turn to Acas as the employment relations experts. The current emphasis on the value of conciliation in resolving disputes and the promotion of partnership at work makes Acas ideally placed to deliver a more competitive, better workplace for all.”

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