For us and the unions, positive employee relations are about joint decision making, problem solving and genuine employee engagement.
Maintaining productive and collaborative relationships with the trade unions is important to us because around 91% of our employees are covered by collective representation arrangements.
Our Employee Relations Framework forms the basis of our approach, and we have established forums at both a local and business unit level, through which we inform, consult and negotiate on employee relations matters.
The Framework is an agreement between us and UNISON, Unite, GMB and Prospect trade unions that sets out the arrangements for trade union recognition at United Utilities for collective bargaining and consultation purposes.
The following shared commitments underpin our employee relations:
- the sustainable long-term success of United Utilities, recognising both local and company-wide changes are likely and part of a healthy organisation.
- the recognition and acceptance that individuals have different roles and functions, and represent organisations that may have different underpinning principles and policies. A difference in focus and priorities is normal.
- developing a shared proactive agenda on topics of mutual priority, for example, a focus on the quality of working life or sustainability matters.
- the quality of the relationship itself and therefore a commitment to maintenance activities such as communications, meetings and processes at all times.
- the communication and understanding of business strategy to ensure our approach adds value to all concerned.
- the personal and professional development of those directly involved with employee relations activities.
- trade union involvement in any change process recognising that the context drives the pace of change and the nature of the involvement.
In terms of union representation and responsibilities, there are:
- three full-time union representatives (UNISON, Unite and GMB) who are jointly appointed by their union and the company;
- a number of elected trade union representatives who attend forums and represent employees’ views on any employment changes that the company proposes; and
- a number of union health and safety, and union learning representatives.
We allow these representatives reasonable time off to carry out trade activities and relevant union training. We also, periodically, run training courses and events with the Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service (ACAS) to improve how we work together.
Developing and maintaining positive employee relations requires managers and union representatives to work together on matters where they may hold conflicting views. However, if there is goodwill, openness and honesty on both sides, clarity about agreed procedures and a shared commitment to communicate, then we believe that, together, we can achieve progress.