ACAS guidance on unions and social media

ACAS is the UK Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service, which provides information to improve employment relations. It is funded by the UK government but governed by an independent council. One of its major functions is to interpret and provide guidance on labour law – like what is “reasonable time off for trade union duties” anyway?

ACAS is a pretty essential resource for trade unionists as well as for HR practioners.

They recently released a briefing called Social media and its impact on employers and trade unions (pdf). It’s a good overview that looks at the impact of social media on employment relations, noting for example:

  • New legal and ethical questions on what the acceptable norms of behaviour are in a new social space at an individual level;
  • Potential to both share information and consult employees in new ways;
  • Stronger collective voice of employees; and
  • Change in the conduct of collective disputes and collective bargaining.
ACAS recommends that employees are consulted on the development of social media policy, and reminded of the importance of protecting their privacy. There is also a case study of a company using an “enterprise wiki” to develop ideas.
On unions and social media, the paper says:

In collective or ‘organised’ labour disputes, social media has the power to rapidly
organise disparate groups of individuals in increasingly fragmented workplaces,
where trade union reps are thinly spread and struggle to maintain the direct personal
contact that previously existed. It also provides unions struggling to connect with
younger workers a means to communicate with this group via a medium with which
the younger generation are, on the whole, comfortable.

There is also a good overview of the state of social media practice within unions, and the impact this is likely to have on future disputes: as social media becomes more ubiquitous, mobilising workers will become easier, and this may increasingly happen outside of formal union structures.

Most encouraging of all, the piece quotes Cyberunions and puts us on the list of recommended sites!

 

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