Q: We've never really had anything to do with unions, but recently one of our best managers asked our HR manager for our policy. I'd rather this didn't escalate – we have a pretty happy workforce and I don't want to have to move to something more formalised. What should I do?
A: If you really care for your employees, you have nothing to worry about. Good union leaders are too shrewd to put pressure on companies that already give their workforce a good deal and employees will only join a union if they think membership will improve their pay and conditions.
Occasionally, a new worker may force his union ambitions on reluctant colleagues but you have been approached by one of your most talented and well-established managers. Don’t leave matters to your HR director – meet the manager yourself to assure him you will support any properly organised union representation, then ask him why he is concerned. You may find things are not as good as you think. Are you really sure that you have a happy workforce? Do you have a waiting list of people wanting to work for you? Are you spending too much of your time hearing grievances and attending employment tribunals? Is your pay lower than your nearest competitors?
If your aim is to amaze your colleagues, they have little need for help from a union. If, on the other hand, you make money at the expense of the workforce, don’t be surprised if they seek outside help. The pressure they cause could be good for your business.