Methods of avoiding and resolving industrial disputes

Industrial disputes

Definition: A disagreement between management and the trade union representatives of the workforce that is serious enough for industrial action  to be considered.

Industrial action

Definition: Measures taken by the workforce that will halt or slow output, in order to put pressure on management during an industrial dispute, e.g.: strike, work-to-rule, overtime ban and go-slow.

Types of industrial action


When employees stop working as a form of official protest, usually in order to get some agreement from their employer.

Reasons behind BA strike

End to strikes


  1. Why are BA staff going on strike?
  2. When are they going on strike?  Is the timing significant?
  3. How has/will BA be hurt by the strikes?


This is when strikers stand at entrances to a place of work to persuade others not to cross the picket line (entrance to work) and to not break the strike.

Work to rule

Where workers follow an employer’s rules so strictly productivity falls or even nothing gets done.

Sit in

Employees occupy a workplace for a specific period of time therefore causing production to stop.

Go slow

Working slowing to try to reduce productivity and profits.

Overtime ban

Employees are not prepared to work beyond their normal hours reducing the flexibility of the labour force.

Methods of avoiding industrial disputes

1. Consultation, communication with and involvement of staff in decision making through employee representation and regular meetings and feedback sessions.

2. An effective grievance procedure (way for staff to make complaints to management) that has been agreed by employees.  This should allow employees to voice any concerns before they develop into major problems.

3. No strike agreements – in return for higher pay and working conditions, unions agree not to take industrial action for a certain period of time.

4. Single union agreements – This is where employees agree to be represented by one union.  The benefit is that it makes negotiation simpler for employers and prevents rivalry between different unions.  They also improve communication between employees and employers and reduce the chances of industrial action.

5. Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service (ACAS) – an independent and impartial organisation that offers advice to prevent any problems happening in the first place.  It helps employees / employers work together to resolve problems in the workplace before they develop into disputes.

ACAS provides different services to employers and employees:

  • Preventing and resolving industrial disputes
  • Resolving individual disputes over employment rights
  • Providing impartial information and employment matters
  • Improving understanding of industrial relations

Methods for resolving industrial disputes

1. Arbitration

The attempt to settle a dispute by using a neutral third party.  The arbitrator will listen to both sides then make a decision.  The parties can agree in advance to be bound by the arbitrator.

2. Conciliation –

This is the attempt by a neutral third party to get both sides in a dispute together to try to reconcile their differences.  ACAS can act as an independent conciliator.  The conciliator encourages continued discussions in the hope that a compromise can be reached.  They do not make a judgement about the validity.


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