Government measures to reduce the deficit and reconfigure the role of the state could have profound implications for public sector employment relations, according to a new paper commissioned by Acas.

But the discussion paper also argues that the huge change we are seeing has not just sprung up from current Government thinking but has its roots in the public service reforms of the previous Labour and Conservative administrations.

Entitled “A new era of public service employment relations? The challenges ahead” it was written by Professor of Employment Relations Stephen Bach from King’s College, London.

Focussing on the core public services – the NHS, Civil Service and Local Government, the paper examines:

• the impact of deficit reduction;
• attempts to diversify public service provision, including the increasing role of the voluntary sector and other providers;
• the erosion of national pay bargaining; and
• implications for trade unions.

Commenting on the paper Acas Chief Executive John Taylor said:

“Workplaces in the public sector have been facing immense change over recent years and will face a fresh decade of even more. Managers of public services will have significant challenges even after they have reduced employee numbers and restructured their organisations.

“Leadership and management skills will be crucial in order to ensure that the workforce remains engaged and productive once the dust has settled.

“Acas is uniquely positioned to champion and encourage debate about the future of workplace relations in the public sector”.

The paper is one of a series of discussion papers commissioned by Acas to examine and provoke debate about the future of workplace relations. It follows a publication in January 2011, The Future of Workplace Relations – An Acas View which addressed the wider terrain of employment relations including the drivers for change and the key future challenges.