Sir, It is true that strikes are never inevitable ('Heinz Baked Beanz at risk as union discontent grows', 6 November). Negotiation should always be the first option, and strikes are in no one's interest.

In most cases, employers and staff have been working together to make difficult changes to working patterns, which have helped safeguard jobs in tough economic times. Sustaining that spirit of co-operation will be more challenging now the recession is over. Companies remain cautious about pay and recruitment, and employees may feel frustrated at the prospect of restraint. It is crucial that employers and staff representatives go the extra mile and work together constructively to avoid strikes.

All too often strikes go ahead on a tiny turnout of affected union members. That's why the CBI has proposed a moderate package of measures to raise the threshold for industrial action, and to minimise disruption if it occurs. This includes changing the law so strikes could only go ahead with the backing of 40% of those balloted, as well as a simple majority of those voting.

And just as union members have a right to withdraw their labour, companies have a responsibility to their supply chains, customers and other employees to keep businesses up and running during a period of strike action. So employers must also be able to hire agency workers to provide cover for striking staff.

Jim Bligh, senior policy advisor, CBI

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