Paper 2: Voice (Bull, Gilman & Pyman)


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  • Research presented is from my PhD. When started in 2005/2006, very few studies had been conducted to explore the regulatory effects of the Regs on orgs, and its implications for employee voice and representation. Research adopts mixed methods approach – survey, expert interviews with union organisers and Acas Advisor, and case study approach. Data presented for paper is based on case studies – so looking at the micro level.
  • 75% workplaces with 5 or more employees in UK have no form of representation – union or non-union based (Charlwood & Terry, 2007). 49% of employees have no access to representation at work. So in companies with 50 or more emps, now the opportunity to gain formal means of representation. Have been number of debates in literature as to what the Directive will mean for the UK, and also the implications of the UK governments ‘light-touch’ approach. First, compliance is not mandatory. Introduces a number of antecedents – employee and employer awareness and willingness to trigger the Regs. Also, as primacy given to allowing comps to determine own arrangements, no guarantee that what comes out meets the floor of rights in the Directive. Loophole is that employers can opt-out. Not enforceable by law.
  • Based on four medium and large firms from South East UK. Operate across private and voluntary sectors. One company is unionised – have long history of unionisation. Now have non-union and union body operating alongside each other. One union rep crosses over to non-union body. Three therefore non-union, but Charity Org has union presence.
  • response has come from managers, and more specifically HR. Most managers conceded that employers were unlikely aware of the Regs, or were unlikely to have triggered the Regs. Literature highlights array of factors that can promote or constrain management choice for voice, aside from regulatory environment i.e. technology, labour market conditions, management style, emp expectations to have a say etc. Most cases, Regs prompted management. This slides shows that have been variety of drivers. Most of note being union avoidance and presence of champion. Charity – had been failed recognition campaign. Whilst support not enough to get recognition, was enough to trigger the Regs. Cake Co – had a union campaigning outside on a yearly basis. Limit of Regs very minimal at Accounts company. Management decided not to do anything, accept admit they are more open with financial info in light of the guidance that came out with the Regs.
  • Shows variety in objectives and scope. Some objective pluralistic – Cake Co – matter of right, provide opp for emps to participate. Some unitarist. Obkectives broadly linked to long term performance/sustainability of organisation/employee development. Scope broad and encompasses higher level issues envisaged by Regs – restructuring, future plans of orgs, economic situation of the business. Issues typically excluded were individual grievances and pay.
  • Consultation defined in two – made reference to timing – before decisions – but also stated that managerial prerogative not affected. Elections happened in three – deemed important for the independence of these structures. Joint training provided Despite this, essentially management imposed. Was management that set the objectives and parameters of voice. Joint approach to implementation endorsed with literature and Regs, in order for emps to see them as legitimate and for employees to have greater ownership. Charity and Accounts Co – management imposed. Working parties in Paper Co and Cakes Co – but management selected the members
  • Some indication that management serious to make work at start up stages – senior management presence on bodies. Things that stood out: Reps typically reactive in approach and individual how operate. Pre-meets only happened in one organisation. Would send email round or just wait for people to come to them with issues. Likewise with feedback. Difference between union and non-union. Union reps more effective, more collective in mindset. Feedback meetings only happened in Charity. Nature of issues – deemed trivial by management and reps. Say examples. In Paper Co, did croach into work organisation, following training that had made employees more aware of the types of questions they should be asking. But battered back – highlights limitation of non union bodies and of consultation.
  • Benefits – management more open with info, reps valued link with senior management – more visible. Where focus groups conducted, employees not feel the same. Senior management didn’t walk round shop floor. Left emps feeling under valued. Could be that reps could see management were approachable, talking through employee issues and had greater understanding of constraints management operate in. Yet employees not see this – just hear that their suggestions not go through and left sceptical of process. Three orgs been through change during forums’ operation. Paper Co and Accounts Co – communication. Timing of consultation considered too late or decisions not go through forum at all. Forums generally had ‘more tongue than teeth’ (Charity the exception) Consultation more timely at Charity and approximated that envisaged by Directive – shared in proposal stages, emp reps given confidential information.
  • signs that management committed during start-up stages but is there commitment beyond that?? Balance of activity usually one way – management would give information but largely left to emps to bring issues. Top management support?? Although Hr driving it, how far can it go without senior management buy-in?? Paternal styles/unitarist styles in three of the companies. Accounts Co – 24 partners – most old school Charity – CEO not like to ‘let go’ Paper Co – new CEO, been restricted financial info. Management put them in place but not do anything with them after – none had reviewed to see how operating, if improving performance. Employee apathy across company – manifested in number of ways – finding hard getting reps, employees not raising many issues, or of a strategic nature. Do emps want a voice? Another explanation could be that emps not educated as to what purpose of the forums are. Conclusion – management driving and determining agenda and influence of employees. Flexibilities instilled in regs preserves managerial prerogative. Begs the question – do you think unions have a greater role to play in the Regs? Were seen to be more effective in Paper Co – union body had higher kudos, reps more respected and collective.
  • Paper 2: Voice (Bull, Gilman & Pyman)

    1. 1. The Impact and Significance of the Information and Consultation of Employees Regulations (ICER) in the UK Ms. Elaine Bull, Dr Mark Gilman & Dr Amanda Pyman University of Kent ‘ Performance & Sustainability for SMEs’ International Workshop on Innovation & Performance Management. Saturday 3rd July 2010
    2. 2. Overview of the ICER <ul><li>Transpose into national law the EU Information and Consultation Directive (ICD) </li></ul><ul><li>Significance of the Directive in the UK </li></ul><ul><li>Widens statutory scope of information and consultation. </li></ul><ul><li>Tripartite approach to transposition between social partners </li></ul><ul><li>High degree of coverage of UK-based organisations. </li></ul><ul><li>The UK’s ‘light-touch’ approach to transposition </li></ul><ul><li>Compliance is not mandatory </li></ul><ul><li>Floor of minimum rights not guaranteed </li></ul><ul><li>Capacity for organisations to ‘opt-out’ of the provisions through establishing ‘pre-existing agreements’ (PEAs). </li></ul><ul><li>Research Aim: to explore the impact and significance of the ICE Regulations in the UK </li></ul>
    3. 3. Research Method <ul><li>Exploratory case study research (n=4) </li></ul><ul><li>40 semi-structured interviews with key HR personnel, senior management, employee representatives and union representatives (where present). </li></ul><ul><li>5 employee focus groups (Paper Co & Cake Co). </li></ul><ul><li>Themes for this paper surround the establishment, process and effectiveness of forum arrangements, established in response to the ICER. </li></ul>
    4. 4. Case Study Characteristics Case Name No of Emps Sector Union recognition (m/ship density) ICER structure (year implemented) Cake Co (Dutch-owned, Ltd company) 484 Food Manufacturing No Our Voice (2008) Paper Co (Swedish & American-owned, Ltd company) 370 Paper Manufacturing Yes (40% density) Manual workers only Joint Consultation Forum for non-manual workforce (2005) Operating Council for manual workforce (1994) Accounts Co (Limited Liability Partnership) 195 Accounting No Staff Forum (2004) Charity 75 Voluntary No (approx 12% density) Information and Consultation Group (2006)
    5. 5. Organisational Responses to the ICER <ul><li>Establishment of ICER arrangements </li></ul><ul><li>Management-initiated in all cases </li></ul><ul><li>- 3 ‘pre-existing agreements’. At Accounts Co, an agreement or constitution had not been created. </li></ul><ul><li>Drivers of managerial responses varied. In most cases, Regulations were a ‘catalyst for change’ (Hall et al., 2008). </li></ul><ul><li>Charity : Arrival of new HR Director; organisational growth; union avoidance; democratic right. Overhauled existing body. </li></ul><ul><li>Paper Co : Extend voice to non-manual workforce; best practice. Implemented non-union forum alongside an existing union ‘council’ </li></ul><ul><li>Cake Co : Appointment of senior HR position on board of directors; union avoidance. Overhauled existing body. </li></ul><ul><li>Accounts Co : Desire to be an employer of choice; improve communication and employee engagement following a staff survey; culture change. Forum predated Regulations. Some changes made to scope. </li></ul>
    6. 6. Content of Agreements Case Objectives of Arrangements Scope of Arrangements Charity “ ensure efficiency & sustainability of organisation; promote quality of service to clients, security of employment and development…to work together in a mutually beneficial & harmonious manner” Future plans of organisation organisational restructuring, proposed changes to t&c’s, org & financial performance; employment legislation; work organisation etc Paper Co ‘ to promote efficient and profitable development of Paper Co ..and safety and development of its employees” Economic situation of business, workplace, employment prospects, decisions leading to changes in work organisation or contractual relations. Cakes Co Increase staff involvement in decision-making and problem-solving. promote open communication and consultation Business developments, current/future staffing levels, H&S, T&D, customer & quality issues, improvement initiatives etc Accounts Co To discuss employee suggestions and ideas; provide info and solicit feedback on new initiatives or changes before being implemented Anything apart from individual pay or commercially sensitive information “such as a merger or acquisition”
    7. 7. Content of Agreements <ul><li>Consultation defined in only 2 cases (Charity & Cake Co) </li></ul><ul><li>Reps allocated paid time off to conduct duties in all cases </li></ul><ul><li>Little employee influence in design and content of constitutions </li></ul><ul><li>Elections to select representatives held in 3 organisations </li></ul><ul><li>External training provided to representatives in 3 cases </li></ul>
    8. 8. Process & Operation of ICER Arrangements <ul><li>Management-chaired with senior management presence </li></ul><ul><li>- Including CEO (Charity); Finance Director & Operations Director (Paper Co); HR Partner & Operations Partner (Accounts Co); HR Director (Cakes Co) </li></ul><ul><li>Meeting frequency varied (monthly/quarterly/bi-annually) </li></ul><ul><li>Representatives typically reactive in their approach </li></ul><ul><li>- Soliciting suggestions and providing feedback </li></ul><ul><li>- Networking between representatives limited - lacked solidarity </li></ul><ul><li>Nature of employee suggestions largely trivial or ‘employee demands’ </li></ul><ul><li>- ‘Bogs & basins, parking, canteen, holiday, ‘smelly bushes’ </li></ul><ul><li>- Flexible working, cost of living increase, individual PRP – ‘battered back’ by management. </li></ul>
    9. 9. Effectiveness of ICER Arrangements <ul><li>Scope and regularity of information enhanced </li></ul><ul><li>- Employees more ‘commercially aware’; Senior management ‘more visible’ to employee representatives. Sentiment not shared by ‘rank and file’ </li></ul><ul><li>Tangible changes made in all cases </li></ul><ul><li>- Appraisal system, ‘dress down Fridays’, new showers, new production equipment, new bonus scheme, bike2work scheme, canteen enlarged. </li></ul><ul><li>Meaningful consultation in the management of change? </li></ul><ul><li>Paper Co : redundancy decision a fait compli. Forum used to ‘sell’ management decisions. Quality & visibility of reps and line management style important. </li></ul><ul><li>Accounts Co : forum by-passed during four key decisions (merger, transition from generalist to specialist practice, closure of two offices, discontinuing paid overtime). Direct voice in competition. </li></ul><ul><li>Charity : redundancy consultation during proposal stages. Influenced means of decision implementation. Changes made to other HR policies. </li></ul>
    10. 10. Key Findings & Discussion Points <ul><li>Management commitment & style </li></ul><ul><li>- More information, than consultation (Paper Co, Cake Co, Accounts Co) </li></ul><ul><li>- Top management commitment? </li></ul><ul><li>- Absence of a review and an evaluation of arrangements </li></ul><ul><li>Employee apathy </li></ul><ul><li>- Do employees want a voice at work? </li></ul><ul><li>- Employee expectations and/or capabilities to influence and contribute to strategic issues </li></ul><ul><li>- Dependence on employer goodwill and employee awareness of forum objectives and ICER </li></ul><ul><li>Legal framework has preserved managerial prerogative </li></ul><ul><li>- Do you unions have a greater role to play </li></ul>