So said David Cameron last month, responding to the UK trade unions' decision at the 2012 Trades Union Congress in Brighton to consider the "practicalities" of staging a General Strike in protest at the Coalition Government's programme of economic austerity measures.
But could it be that - quite contrary to the headline-grabbing rhetoric emanating from both the unions and the Government - the unions' appetite for industrial action is in decline, to be replaced by what might be termed an appetite for co-operation?
In a guest blog post for HSJ.co.uk - entitled Unions Are Part Of The Solution, NHS Employers Director Dean Royles argues that beyond the headlines, the reality of the trade unions' motivations is somewhat different:
Despite the rhetoric that surrounds any TUC conference, most trade unions no longer see industrial action as a first response. Their members wouldn't wear it. They want dialogue and involvement and transparency from public and private sector employers. [...] I [..] want to involve trade unions in decision making, look to the long-term and ask for their ideas and to work constructively on some passing issues.Royles says that he seeks to foster this appetite for co-operation in his own dealings with the unions.
He finds this "a much more effective way of helping to change and shape our context. It will build trust and I hope create the opportunity for mature debate and discussion at what will be a challenging time."
What's your view on the state of the unions in 2012?
I'm very interested to find out the views of XpertHR readers on the issues around the state of the UK trade unions raised here.
I'd love to hear from you. You can submit comments via the box below, or contact me directly via Twitter, LinkedIn or Google+.
State of the unions: Read all the posts in the XpertHR series
- State of the unions (1): What's on the union agenda for 2012 and beyond?
As autumn 2012 gets underway, the UK's trade unions are expected to confront the Coalition Government on multiple fronts in 2012 and beyond, including pay and pensions. It is also possible that the unions will set their sights on the Coalition Government's programme of radical employment law reform. A schedule of trade union activism is taking shape for the coming year.
- State of the unions (2): Union membership is in long-term decline
The public appetite for trade union membership could be in decline, latest data suggest.
- State of the unions (3): Labour disputes show strong resurgence as austerity bites
While trade union membership would appear to be in decline, there has been something of a resurgence in labour disputes, in direct response to public spending cuts. Last year saw the highest number of working days lost to labour disputes in more than two decades. This trend was driven by a renewed militancy in the public sector.
- State of the unions (4): Upsurge in labour disputes continues in 2012
Latest data on labour disputes in 2012 suggests that the resurgence in activity seen in 2011 is continuing this year. But despite this upward trend over recent years, levels of labour disputes remain low by historical standards.
- State of the unions (5): Appetite for co-operation?
Is the unions' appetite for industrial action being replaced by an appetite for co-operation?
- Union activity on the rise as TUC plans mass demonstration in London for Saturday 20 October 2012 XpertHR reports.
- XpertHR economic commentary October 2012: A lack of oomph XpertHR's October 2012 economic commentary looks at the Coalition Government's latest actions to boost growth and considers trends in trade union activity.
- Is the Coalition Government waging a 'war on how we work'? and Beecroft report was inspired by 'hopeless' HR director, says Telegraph XpertHR reports.
- Will trade unions struggle for relevance in the Facebook era?
- Banning strike action in 'essential services': The CIPD's 'nuclear option' for implementing public spending cuts