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The Future of Collectivism and Co-operation in Employment Relations. William Brown and Sarah Oxenbridge (University of Cambridge). What might be the future role of trade unions in Britain?. Consider past changes in their role Implications for collective bargaining

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the future of collectivism and co operation in employment relations

The Future of Collectivism and Co-operation in Employment Relations

William Brown and Sarah Oxenbridge

(University of Cambridge)

what might be the future role of trade unions in britain
What might be the future role of trade unions in Britain?
  • Consider past changes in their role
  • Implications for collective bargaining
  • Look at recent developments
  • Report on two ESRC research projects
  • Implications for the future
changes in collective bargaining
Changes in collective bargaining
  • Different levels and forms
    • Local, national, enterprise, workplace
    • Negotiation or consultation
    • Pay, work management, strategic issues
  • Dependence on strikes
dual and varying aspects
Collective bargaining

Rules to protect members

Representation of members - ‘industrial citizenship’

Trade unions

Protecting vested interests of members

‘Sword of justice’ – social purpose

Dual and varying aspects:
1990s trade unions in crisis
1990s - trade unions in crisis
  • Collapse of membership and influence
  • Firms in crisis rethinking union relations
  • Unions responding with a changing role:
    • Facilitating and legitimising innovation
    • Upholding increasing numbers of statutory individual rights
did new labour bring a change in direction
Did New Labour bring a change in direction?

Project 1

  • Responses to 1999 Employment Relations Act
    • 60 selected private sector employers
    • 34 trade union officials
    • 15 employer organisation officials
findings
Findings:
  • Employers forced to review union relations
  • Responses from excluding to renegotiating
  • Facilitated by Acas
  • Where bargaining, scope often narrowed
  • Whether or not bargaining, substantial increase in consultation
  • Many cases of newly co-operative relations
co operative union employer relationships
Co-operative union/employer relationships

‘Partnership’ arrangements ranged from nurturing trade unions to containing them

Project 2

The nature and conduct of co-operative union/employer relations

- 9 cases covering different viewpoints

- different degrees of formality and explicitness of partnership

findings10
Findings:
  • Variation in implied union rights from robust to shallow-rooted
  • Importance of mutuality of the relationship
  • Need for substantial consultation on issues that matter
  • Short life expectancy for the shallow-rooted
  • Importance for the union of managing mixed union/non-union groups
future of collective bargaining
Future of collective bargaining

Much depends upon:

  • Government agenda of ‘industrial citizenship’
    • Implementation of Inf and Cons Directive
  • Unions developing a ‘social purpose’ role
    • Facilitate change through effective representation
    • Upholding individual rights within the workplace
    • Win new membership within recognised sites
    • Organise the unorganised beyond