Sector needs better relations with trade unions, says report

Charities and voluntary organisations should draw up a collective agreement with trade unions in order to improve relationships and avert disputes, according to an Acevo report.

Protest: report says charities should talk more to unions such as Unite
Protest: report says charities should talk more to unions such as Unite

The Way Ahead: Trade Unions And The Third Sector, which is published by Acevo today, says there should be a national strategy for improving human resources and employment relations, exploring the joint development of a kitemark-style quality accreditation for good employers and discussing a possible sector-wide pension scheme.

It also says that unions and third sector organisations should set aside ideological differences in areas such as the involvement of charities in the delivery of public services and explore drawing up a dispute resolution procedure.

The report's author is Nita Clarke, who was union adviser to Tony Blair when he was Prime Minister.

The report also suggests ways to improve dialogue and understanding between trade unions and third sector organisations. It recommends a protocol to cover areas such as skills development, ethical standards and best practice in staff and volunteer relations.

"It would be a code agreed at national level between organisations such as Acevo, the NCVO and the TUC, and would be about defining and spreading good practice," Clarke told Third Sector.

The voluntary sector should work with trade unions to see how its poor record in this area could be improved, Clarke said.

"A lot of government support for the sector is based around capacity-building and working in partnership, but because of the nature of the third sector it needs help in industrial and employment relations," she said.

Mike Short, national officer for the community and voluntary sector at trade union Unison, said unions would welcome the development of a joint protocol on how unions and third sector organisations should work together.

"Anything that contributes towards the building of good, healthy partnership working is good for us," he said. But he warned that a one-size-fits-all approach should be avoided.

The report says...

  • Unions and third sector organisations should develop a national strategy for improving human resources and industrial relations
  • Both sides should discuss setting up a sector-wide pension scheme
  • Ideological differences should be set aside and a method for allowing regular dialogue between unions and third sector organisations should be established.

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