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Think tank calls for new approach to industrial relations in Wales

16 Feb 2023 2 minute read
Members of the Rail, Maritime and Transport union (RMT) on the picket line. Photo Jacob King PA Images

The Institute of Welsh Affairs has released a report calling for a new approach to trade unions and industrial relations in Wales, in the light of the wave of industrial action across the UK.

The report, Beyond Social Partnership? Devolved Levers to Support Trade Unions, calls for Wales to pursue a new ‘high-road’ model seen in countries with high trade union membership and collective bargaining coverage, as well as high productivity, incomes, and general well-being, such as Norway, Sweden, and Denmark.

The report contrasts this to the current situation in the UK, with mutual antagonism between some levels of government and trade unions, and higher levels of industrial strife than countries that have a more mature model of engagement with trade unions.

Shocking conditions

Auriol Miller, Director of the IWA said: ‘Our interviews with workers in Wales uncovered some shocking conditions, such as a lack of regard for health and safety, as well as workers having to work six days a week on low pay to make ends meet, with no sick pay if they fall ill.

“Some are employed on part-time contracts but are required to be available for full-time hours, locking them in to extremely low pay.

“We have seen consistent stagnation in living standards in the UK, marked by recent waves of industrial action. These are the inevitable results of our current economic model, which isn’t working.

“Our new report calls for the Welsh Government to double-down on a new model of industrial relations in Wales. We want to follow the best-practice countries that have high levels of dialogue between government and unions, rather than mutual antagonism.

“These countries, such as Norway and Sweden, tend to have empowered trade unions and less industrial strife, higher productivity, pay rates, and general well-being levels than the UK and Wales.”

The IWA is launching the Beyond Social Partnership: Devolved Levers to Support Trade Unions report on 16 February. You can sign up for the virtual launch event here…

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