Accounting and trade unions : the incompatibles? : a case study of closures at Dunlop
The objective of this dissertation is to explore the usefulness of accounting information to trade unions. Evidence from this and previous research supports the view that, at best, trade unions believe financial information to be of little use and, at worst, as largely irrelevant. By contrast, financial analysts use the same information in conjunction with other published economic and industrial statistics, to assist investors to monitor and, in effect, control the economy. This suggests there is an incentive for the unions to acquire the necessary skills to analyse financial information, so that they too can monitor management policy, and thus be in a better position to further the interests of their members. And yet they do not, and show few signs of wanting to. To understand this apparent paradox, this thesis argues that the trade unions use of accounting information has to be understood in the context of their methods, objectives and role in capitalist society. This thesis concludes that for the trade unions to realise the potential of accounting information, they would need to organise on the basis of "strategic unionism". The arguments presented are illustrated and developed through a detailed analysis of closures at Dunlop during the late 1970s and early 1980s. The case-study shows (a) that the trade unions could have foreseen Dunlop's closure programme by utilising the information potentially available to then, and (b) that they failed to do so because of the constraints imposed upon their strategic uses by organisational and institutional weaknesses.