Industrial Action and Pensions – Two Key HR Priorities

Hello PPMA members and friends,

This is an exciting week for PPMA as we launch our new website. The site has live news feeds and discussion opportunities for our members, all focussed on people management issues in the public sector.

I have said before that HR in the public sector these days is not for the faint hearted and I will keep on saying it! These are tough times indeed for the public sector and PPMA aims to highlight and support the important and vital contribution an excellent HR function can offer to senior leaders, executive, non executive and political.

The hot topic of the week is the impending industrial action by a number of public sector trade unions over pensions.

What we should all be concerned about here is that repeated strike action has the potential not only to create entrenched positions, but also to have a more profound and damaging impact upon employee engagement. This will in turn impact on performance and productivity across public services, especially if the action expands with other trade unions later in the year.

There is a double whammy to consider here, since there is no doubt that employee engagement in the public sector has already been damaged in the last year by negative media coverage. The comparisons that are now being made between public and private sector pension provision are set to further divide opinion and understanding. This is not good news, not for public services and not for the public who rely on them.

At a national level it is essential that all parties stay around the table and have a full, transparent and clear negotiation about the proposed changes. This needs to recognise the importance of public sector pension provision as part of the total reward envelope from which public sector workers are to be recruited and retained.

Lord Hutton, in his review of public sector pensions, was careful to recognise the variety of public sector pension schemes and provisions which apply to different groups-teachers, fire-fighters, local government employees, civil servants, NHS employees, police. He recommended that consultation on details should be conducted scheme by scheme and highlighted the need for deeper consideration of issues the reforms pose for various groups.

Whatever course the national discussions take, there are two important priorities now for HR in our organisations:

  1. Working closely with our senior management teams and trade unions locally to ensure that business continuity plans are fully in place, with agreed clarity about exemptions from strike action. These plans are well tested and current across public sector organisations, with HR preparing and supporting our organisations to manage the impact of strike action and to sustain essential services to the most vulnerable.
  2. Managing the employee engagement implications. Employee engagement and employee relations need to be managed hand in hand here. A vital ingredient of employee engagement is good information, communication vacuums need to be avoided at all costs. We all need to do as much as possible to ensure our employees are well informed about the proposals as they currently stand and how any changes might impact on them.  Pensions are a complex and serious issue and it is essential that everyone is provided with clear, factual information. As always, good employee engagement starts with managers, but  is always more challenging when managers are equally affected by the issue, as they are with pensions. Take account of this in your communication plans and if possible, give managers a heads up in advance of communications to the wider workforce. In my experience that is always appreciated.

So, another big role here for HR, and at times like these it is more helpful than ever to share experiences and feedback. So let’s use PPMA’s new website to do just that!

Look forward to hearing from you.

Til next week,


By | 2017-07-30T12:23:27+00:00 June 28th, 2011|Categories: Anne Gibson|0 Comments

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