Unions threaten UK competitiveness, say FDs

Link: FDs show little faith in IAS

Unions are a threat to the competitiveness of UK businesses in Europe, according to four out of 10 FDs.

The latest Accountancy Age/Reed Accountancy Big Question survey found, in the week of the TUC conference, that many finance directors believe unions may be damaging the ability of UK businesses to beat with their European competitors.

A significant 42% of FDs thought that unions were having a negative effect – a belief echoed by chancellor Gordon Brown this week when he warned that the economy was at risk from high wage demands.

Kevin Tomlinson, FD at Signam, said: ‘The language coming from the union leaders sounds increasingly like the bad old days of the late seventies.’

Others questioned the unions’ agenda. ‘They use trivial excuses to try to distribute better benefits for employees outside the original remit of a trade union,’ said Mike Chappell, FD at Carwin Continuous.

But among almost 150 FDs polled, 44% felt union power had long since faded. John Collinson, FD at Britax Excelsior, said: ‘I would suggest the balance of power between unions and employers still favours employers.’

Others said the heyday of the unions was long over. ‘We have come a long way since the industrial relations strife of the 1970s and UK unions have little power in relation to their continental comrades,’ said Bob Evans, FD at Dane Group.

But some finance chiefs wanted to cast union and employer relations within a broader, international context.

Bryan Armour, FD at Parchment Housing Group, said: ‘The issue, of course, is of worldwide competitiveness and our willingness to assume lower safety and welfare standards with increased productivity measures if we are to win investment and grow economically. Nevertheless, the unions have a key role to play.’

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