Acas uses cookies to ensure we give you the best experience and to make the site simpler. Find out more about cookies.

Website URL :

Acas urges trade union officials to use collective conciliation earlier

Tuesday 12 October 2010

  • The majority of union officials use Acas when they have disputes
  • Most union negotiators still encounter collective disputes
  • Misconceptions on what conciliation means in practice may be a barrier to use
  • Acas collective conciliation can be used earlier than the impasse stage.

Acas, the conciliation service, today published new research that shows that opportunities to resolve collective disputes by bringing in Acas at an earlier stage are being missed. It also revealed there was some confusion on what conciliation means in practice which may be stopping union officials using Acas' collective conciliation service.

The research was commissioned by Acas to investigate union official's experience of dealing with collective disputes and the extent of their use of Acas collective conciliation and reasons for non-use.

In 2009/10 Acas dealt with over 900 collective disputes. Ninety four per cent of cases, including high profile disputes such as Royal Mail and Milford Haven Port Authority, were either resolved or the parties were moved towards a resolution.

Key findings from the research include:

  • Almost nine-in-ten officials had dealt with some form of industrial dispute over the past decade with 69% bringing Acas in at some point
  • 58% wrongly thought conciliation resulted in a solution being chosen for the parties by Acas
  • 49% of respondents indicated that the lack or non-use of Acas was due to the incorrect belief that they could only use Acas if the parties were at an impasse
  • A quarter of respondents did not know that Acas is independent of government.

Ed Sweeney, Acas Chair, said:

"The research shows that our conciliation service is still very much in demand. However a lack of understanding on how we help parties in dispute could be holding some union officials back in using Acas earlier in a dispute before parties have reached a deadlock and positions become entrenched.

"As we enter potentially difficult times in both the public and private sector, a neutral, impartial third party is a valuable tool to use at the right time. Acas collective conciliation allows the parties to stay in control and helps them to keep communicating and think through what the options for potential resolution might be."

Trade union negotiating officials' use and non-use of Acas conciliation in industrial disputes is available at

Notes for editors

1. Acas' aim is to improve organisations and working life through better employment relations. It provides information, advice, training and a range of services working with employers and employees to prevent or resolve problems and improve performance. It is an independent statutory body governed by a Council consisting of the Acas Chair and employer, trade union and independent members.

2. 1,024 officials from 63 trade unions responded to the survey, making this one of the most comprehensive surveys of paid union negotiating officials in recent times. Acas will be looking at ways to ensure negotiating officials know the facts about what we offer, this includes writing to the General Secretaries of the unions that took part to highlight the findings and how Acas can help going forward.

  • Clare Carter, Press and PR Manager on 020 7210 3688
  • Lou Owen, Media and Marketing Officer on 020 7210 3920.