This paper reports on a qualitative research project conducted in February and March 2011 that set out to better understand the attitudes of certain trade union officials towards a dispute resolution in general and a specific service provided by Acas in particular – that of collective conciliation. In addition, the research assessed the specific factors driving the low/non-usage of collective conciliation by trade union officials. Collective conciliation refers to the process of resolving collective employment disputes through negotiations between employee representatives (usually trade unions) and employers. Collective conciliation normally takes place when the relationship between the employer and the employee representatives has reached some sort of crisis point, be that a break down in communications or the imminent threat of industrial action.
The paper concludes that if trade union officers take a reserved position with regard to facilitated dispute resolution, this might be because they feel the mediator is taking over their role. Also, there exists uncertainty as to where and how collective conciliation might most appropriately be incorporated within officials’ established approaches. Despite the focus in this research project on collective conciliation facilitated by Acas, the findings of this study shed light on the preferences and attitudes of trade unionists with regard to any type of dispute resolution that is facilitated by a third party.