In February 2014 the Scottish Government commissioned this independent review of progressive workplace policies and practices in the public and private sectors in Scotland, focusing on measures that would optimise the relationships that link trade unions, employers and Government, and make recommendations on:
•opportunities for innovation that would enhance productivity, workplace development, and labour market security and resilience;
•what constitutes good practice, the principles that underpin it, the benefits it delivers, and how it might be more widely supported, adopted and secured;
•opportunities to promote collective bargaining, workplace democracy, diversity and equality, including specifically the participation of women.
The context for the Review included positive economic trends and a belief that Scotland benefits from generally good industrial relations, but also a recognition that while Scotland’s productivity is on a par with the UK as a whole, UK productivity lags the G7 average.
The Review Group carried out a series of workplace visits and interviews with trade unions, employees and employers. Further to this, consultation was undertaken with a range of academics and third-sector organisations. Finally, an ‘open space’ event was held, whereby individuals from all sectors were invited to give their views on industrial relations in Scotland and provide feedback on the Review Group’s emerging thinking. We are confident that this approach has furnished the review with a range of perspectives and opinions about positive industrial relations in Scotland.
Through this work the Review Group identified a shared ambition to embed progressive workplace practices to boost innovation and productivity and deliver successful organisations, sustainable business and economic growth, high-quality jobs and a more equitable society.
The Review Group has become convinced that that the economic and social challenges and opportunities facing Scotland are more likely to be addressed successfully in an environment where unions play their full part.
Based on the evidence gathered by the Review Group, it is clear that many unions, employees and employers are already reaping the benefits of working together to construct their own business or sector specific models of modern, co-operative industrial relations. To build on that success the Review Group has identified four key themes for action. They are:
• investing in the capacity of union members and staff - and enhancing employer capacity in the same way - to deliver economic, social and civic benefits;
• investing in dialogue and communication about fair work to achieve a broader and deeper recognition of the benefits that accrue from unions and employers working together, and a shared commitment to progressive workplace policies;
• fostering real opportunities for unions, employees and employers to work together which embeds these values more systematically and maximises the benefits of shared knowledge and distributed leadership;
• a willingness to resource, evidence, share and learn from what works.
The 30 recommendations of the Review Group are:
Developing Capacity and Capability in Industrial Relations
1) The Scottish Government should continue to support the development of union-led learning through Scottish Union Learning (SUL) and its Development and Learning Funds and publicise the benefits of those. The Scottish Trades Union Congress (STUC), Skills Development Scotland (SDS), and the Scottish Funding Council (SFC) should agree an approach that ensures that union-led learning fulfils its full potential in addressing Scotland’s workplace and workforce development challenges.
2) Training for union representatives (shop stewards; learning reps; health and safety reps) provided through further education colleges should be funded through a fee remission arrangement.
3) The Scottish Government should work with the STUC and public sector unions to introduce trade union Equality Representatives into Scottish public sector workplaces. Equality Reps should be given access to appropriate training and facility time to perform this role effectively.
4) The Scottish Government should work with the STUC and public sector unions to introduce Environmental (green) Representatives into Scottish public sector workplaces. Environmental Reps should be given access to appropriate training and facility time to perform this role effectively.
5) The STUC/TUC Education in Scotland should work collaboratively with appropriate providers to develop a Union Leadership Development Programme to enhance the capacity of current and future union leaders.
6) A trade union environmental workplace fund should be created to support the development of union capacity on sustainable workplace issues and to support relevant workplace projects.
Supporting Fair Employment
7) The Scottish Government should continue to emphasize the significance of Scotland’s trade union movement, the valuable part which unions can play in building economic success, and the value of union facility time in delivering effective industrial relations.
8) The Scottish Government should assign responsibility for industrial relations to a single Cabinet-level Minister. At present, different aspects rest within different ministerial portfolios.
9) The Scottish Government and the STUC should regularly review their Memorandum of Understanding and seek ways of improving the engagement between unions and Government and its agencies.
10) The Scottish Government should explore with the STUC how the ‘social dialogue’ approach encompassed in the Memorandum of Understanding can be expanded to involve employers in Scotland, recognising that enduring social dialogue will not exist unless the employer pillar is representative, consistent and committed to working together to achieve agreed objectives.
11) A fair employment framework should be developed through a stakeholder body (see recommendation 14), and it should be promoted across private, public and third sectors. The framework should be based on 'what works' principles and should clearly define the responsibilities of unions, employers, employees and workers. The framework should seek to provide support for diversity in the workplace with particular regard to women and young people.
12) For the last ten years NHS Scotland has operated a model known as staff governance and embraced its own version of partnership working. Further work should consider whether this construct might translate across to other sectors and how this or other forms of collaborative working might generate higher levels of trust and co-operation in industrial relations.
13) The Scottish Government, local authorities and the STUC should engage appropriately to expand the reach of the Determined To Succeed / Better Way To Work - Unions into Schools and Colleges initiative and should ensure that unions are fully involved at strategic and operational level in the implementation of the recommendations of the Commission on Developing Scotland’s Young Workforce.
Opportunities for Constructive Union and Employer Leadership
14) The Scottish Government should establish a stakeholder body with representation from trade unions and private/public/third sector employers. The body should be supported by relevant experts in the field of industrial relations and operate with an independent secretariat.
15) The purpose of this body would be to provide leadership on Scottish industrial relations matters and fair work. The group would encourage the development of constructive industrial relations in a range of different sectors and workplaces. It would also seek to increase dialogue between unions, employers, public bodies and Government departments.
16) Amongst other things, the body would provide a framework to develop joint training for unions and management on strategic organisational development matters.
17) The body would explore the potential to extend collective and sectoral bargaining in Scotland and seek to increase levels of workplace democracy across the private, public and third sectors in Scotland.
18) The body would also promote the introduction of Equality and Environmental (green) Reps into Scotland’s workplaces and prepare and disseminate guidance for their operation including recommendations on facility time and time off for training (see recommendations 3 and 4 above).
19) The stakeholder body should work with business leaders, relevant agencies and professional bodies to benchmark and promote effective and professional people management practices including industrial relations based on recognised good practice.
20) The stakeholder body should be a vehicle through which unions and employers can assess, distil and promote evidence of the most effective industrial relations practice.
21) The Scottish Government and Scotland’s Public Sector should use powers of procurement to encourage progressive industrial relations practices and behaviours in the private and third sectors. This would include the requirement for private and third sector enterprises to evidence what steps they take to ensure fair and effective industrial relations, and commitment to the concept of a living wage, workforce and workplace development and the promotion of workplace equality.
22) All Industry Leadership Groups (or ILGs and official bodies established to provide strategic leadership and advice to industry/public sector in Scotland) and public sector bodies should be required to establish fit-for-purpose vehicles to formally engage with unions on employment, workplace and workforce development matters.
23) All public sector bodies should be required to include a section in their annual report on their approach to industrial relations and the impact that has had on workplace and workforce matters.
24) The Scottish Government should legislate to ensure that there is effective worker representation (from representative trade unions) on the board of every public sector body; a role tasked with representing worker interests. In so doing the Government should have in mind the need to increase the number of women on the Boards of public sector bodies. The role should be afforded status equivalent to a non-executive director and the individual(s) should be furnished with all the necessary business information, training and development to engage in a meaningful manner with other board members and executives.
25) The Scottish Government and the Public Appointments Commissioner should work with the STUC and the Equalities and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) to develop a strategy and action plan to increase the number of board members on public bodies from a trade union background with due regard to the Scottish Government commitment to diversity and its specific emphasis on rebalancing female participation.
26) The Scottish Government and the STUC should work together to ensure that sufficient support is available to ensure that unions are engaged with the range of workplace and workforce initiatives taking place in Scotland including the Scottish Leaders Forum work on public service workforce development and industrial engagement; the work on leadership being led by Scottish Enterprise; the work of Investors In People and the Workplace Innovation Consortium being led by Strathclyde University.
An Evidence-based Approach to Constructive Industrial Relations
27) The stakeholder body should administer an Industrial Relations Modernisation Fund to encourage unions and employers to develop innovative approaches to industrial relations in Scotland.
28) The Scottish Government should consider investing in an Industrial Relations Learning Academy which would be set up with the express purpose of designing and delivering learning opportunities for all stakeholders in the industrial relations arena. Employer and union representatives would participate in joint training with a view to building strong working relationships and engendering greater levels of mutual understanding and trust.
29) The Scottish Government and the SFC should work with the STUC and other appropriate bodies to improve the availability, quality and accessibility of representative Scottish data on industrial relations.
30) Scotland needs to build greater research capacity in the field of industrial relations and in so doing gather appropriate datasets, interpret findings and help to inform strategic choices at individual workplace, industry sector and national levels. The Scottish Government, the SFC , the STUC, and researchers actively working in this field should be asked to consider and make recommendations on how this can be achieved.
The Review Group recognises that this report is not an end point, but the beginning of a long, challenging and on-going process which necessarily involves trade unions, employees, employers and Government. However, it is a process that the Review Group believes is both vitally necessary and potentially hugely rewarding for everyone, who is either directly or indirectly involved.
The Review Group is convinced that that the economic and social challenges and opportunities facing Scotland are more likely to be addressed successfully in an environment where unions play their full part. The Review Group invites readers to note the contribution of unions to economic, social and civil life in Scotland, and to consider how this contribution can be most effectively deployed and developed.