Social Partnership is not a theory…..w/ ACAS Chair Clare Chapman

The chair of Conciliation and Arbitration service ACAS, Clare Chapman is our special guest in the latest UnionDues podcast , available here.

As the first ACAS chair from a business background in over 20 years, having held senior or board positions in companies like BT, Tesco and G4S, what can we expect?  In a wide-ranging discussion, we get some important pointers.

Social Partnership as a way of life

Front and centre is the view that Social Partnership, the bedrock of ACAS’s way of working “is not a theory, it’s a way of life.”   – so there is a sense of both pride and responsibility:

“People using and providing the service are passionate about the role and potential of ACAS” Clare enthuses, pointing out that “ACAS is a dominant player and that means we have responsibilities” and “I do sense that at this historical moment there is a role for ACAS to bring parties together in search of a way that says let’s use the world’s best thinking to find a way through this.

Fire and Rehire?

The organisation has just delivered a well-worth-reading review of the use of Fire-and-Rehire (no surprise – it predates the current Pandemic-era fascination),  but Clare is clear that  “It’s completely unacceptable to use threats of fire and rehire as a negotiating tactic”, and decries those who believe it is a cost-free quick-fix.

Pointing to the latest Social Attitudes survey,  Clare is optimistic that  “in terms of building trust, I think we’re in a different place to even 18 months ago,” which differs somewhat  from the lived experience of many workers having been reporting to their unions across the complete range of economic sectors. But it has to be acknowledged that both statements can be true.

A Four Year plan for fairness (amongst other things)

But if the views of the social partners do not always coincide,  in ACAS’s new four year plan, taking the organisation through to 2025,  provides a constructive framework within which to research, debate, and engage. “Forging a consensus on the future of work” is one key goal, as is “Embracing difference, increasing inclusion, creating fairness.”

It’s clear that the challenges around sustainability, fairness…….employee voice, these are the issues of the moment,” says Clare – and she’s right to point out  that Brendan Barber, Ed Sweeney, or Rita Donaghy, her three immediate and union-rooted predecessors, would probably not disagree.

#thought4the week and #RadicalRoundUp

Also in this episode, Glasgow University Professor of Work and Employment Mel Simms dissects employment dynamics in the hospitality sector and wonders if maybe, just maybe, the tide is turning in favour of better pay and conditions in her #thought4theweek.

Josiah Mortimer previews this week’s #RadicalRoundUp looking at the People Assembly’s latest protest,  the UCU dispute with the University of Liverpool, Unite making progress on employment rights at Amazon and Labour shaping the debate on flexible working.


Here are some more links to points made in the podcast:

The Unions21 podcast with Clare’s predecessor Brendan Barber is here

The joint ACAS/CBI/TUC statement on redundancy is here

A profile of the Industrial Society is here, and the NHS Confederation is here

The Purposeful Company’s website is here

The UnionDues episode on the Union Learning Fund is here

The RCM podcast hub is here

Access this and all episodes at https://uniondues.podbean.com/

Thanks for reading/listening/sharing/rating, and stay safe.

Next episode – 6 July

An edited version of this post appears on Left Foot Forward

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