Social media ‘could fuel unrest’

The rise of social media such as Twitter and YouTube could fuel unofficial unrest in future industrial disputes, it has been warned.

Peter Harwood, chief conciliator at the conciliation service Acas, said workers can now be mobilised quicker than ever before because of the accessibility and speed of online communications.

“New technology is changing the way in which workers are able to organise. Demonstrations and flash mobs can be arranged at the touch of a button and they can communicate in seconds, not just nationally but internationally.

“Last year’s wildcat strikes at the Lindsey oil refinery are a case in point.

“The Lindsey dispute was characterised by the setting up of networking groups. There was a website and text message and email groups, enabling demonstrators to communicate rapidly across the country and to expand the action to over twenty other major construction sites within hours.

“The threat of unofficial industrial action is one that both employers and unions are wary of. The lack of official leadership in such disputes means negotiating can be complex and a resolution harder to achieve.

“Employers and unions need to understand the role of new technology and not just leave it to their IT departments,” he said.

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