The government must improve management in the public sector to avert the looming threat of strikes, the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) has said.
The organisation spoke out after Business Secretary Vince Cable suggested in a speech at the GMB conference that an increase in industrial action could push the government to toughen the rules.
The CIPD said if managers and staff built a better relationship they had the chance to avert some of the industrial strife threatened over changes to things like retirement and pensions.
Employee relations adviser Mike Emmott said: "Trade unions have the power to disrupt only if employees trust them more than they trust management. The fundamental need is not to 'manage the trade unions', it is to manage the employment relationship and communicate the case for change.
"Government must strive to avoid heavy-handed action at all costs as it would mean any attempt at trying to lead through consensus had failed."
Mr Emmet wrote a paper, Developing Positive Employee Relations, which argues if government and public service employers work on managers' leadership qualities, communicate well and allow staff chances to give their opinions, workers could be won over.
The report, published in August last year, said managers should try to get their staff more engaged in the changes that are happening, even though they may find them difficult.
But Mr Emmet also outlined some more robust policy choices the government could make if there is a surge of industrial action. One option he mentioned is to scrap the simple majority of those voting as the threshold for action and instead stipulate a proportion of people eligible to vote that must support it before moves can be legally made.
He also said rowing parties in the public sector could be forced to attend arbitration before industrial action and suggested the government could ensure ballots are counted separately for each employer.
Copyright © Press Association 2011