Employment relations in non-union organisations : a study of the patterns of relationship modification in the absence of a trade union
This thesis examines the internal dynamics of the employment relationship in non-union organisations and the effects of factors that influence how the relationship is made and modified. Evidence is derived from four case study organisations, drawn from different sectors, sizes and industries. For the purposes of empirical research the employment relationship is defined along five dimensions. The influences on these five relationship dimensions are assessed from a combination of internal and external factors in generating patterns of relationship modification using a social exchange theoretical perspective. The main conclusions of the study are that the major sources of influence can be traced to different managerial styles, product market pressures and the internal social dynamics of each organisation. Attention to the social processes within each organisation shows important differences in the way employment relations are made and modified in each of the four firms. Despite the growth of the nonunion firm in the 1990s, this evidence suggests that the making and modification of the employment relationship remains a source of tension. From these findings it is suggested that one neglected element in understanding patterns of employee relations is the prevailing climate in each organisation. While this was found to be influenced by managerial philosophies, it was also a powerful intervening variable between wider external factors and the employment relationship. The results are used to trace implications for managements, trade unions and public policy. Based on this evidence it is suggested that management can and do determine whether to work with or without trade unions. As such this thesis contributes to a neglected area of non-union industrial relations, the debates about management style, the patterns of workplace compliance and recent issues associated with union revitalisation and mobilisation.