ACAS staff strike over workloads and downgrades
Conciliation service officers picket branches as dispute with management escalates
ACAS staff protest outside Newcastle Civic Centre on May 11 Credit: PCS
Officers at arbitration and conciliation service ACAS turned from peacemakers to protesters on Friday in a one-day strike over “unmanageable workloads” and the downgrading of roles.
The nationwide action at the non-departmental public body, which is normally focused on resolving disputes between bosses and staff at other organisations, follows a ballot of Grade 9 members of civil service union PCS in March.
PCS said picket lines at ACAS offices had been well attended and warned that further strike action would take place on 6 and 7 June if progress towards resolving the dispute was not made.
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PCS general secretary Mark Serwotka said conciliator members at ACAS felt they had no choice but to take strike action after talks that commenced last summer failed to yield acceptable results.
“It really has come to something when people who run a conciliation service can’t negotiate effectively with their own workforce,” he said.
“Hopefully this action will show ACAS management that PCS members are serious about the real issues that need to be resolved. Two more days of strike are scheduled in June if management fail to listen.”
An Acas spokesperson said:
"We are disappointed that some of our staff have decided to take strike action. We have had regular discussions with PCS, we are committed to seeking a resolution and continue to work with our trade unions.
"Over seventy five per cent of Acas' staff will not be taking part in the action so our offices and key services such as our collective conciliation service and helpline will continue to operate as normal. We have plans in place to minimise disruption to our individual conciliation service and maintain the best possible service to our customers."
The union said ACAS staff had been facing “unmanageable workloads” because of an increased number of employment tribunal claims following a Supreme Court victory secured by public sector union Unison last year that involved the removal of fees for some kinds of claims against employers.
In addition to the “unagreed downgrading of conciliation work”, other grievances at the organisation – which had 726 permanent staff at the time of its last annual report – include equalities issues related to the removal of particular grades of work from London by 2019 and a lack of development and training opportunities.
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