Labour-management partnership and union revival : evidence from the UK public sector
This research aims to examine worker and union outcomes of labourmanagement
partnership and, to assess whether partnership provides a viable
option for union revival. The research was carried out using a large-scale
employee data from two matched pairs of partnership and non-partnership
organizations in the health and civil services in Britain. Worker and union
outcomes of formal partnership arrangements were measured at the
organizational level and those of informal partnership arrangements were
measured at the workplace and employee levels (Oxenbridge 2002, 2004).
The analysis of quantitative data was supplemented with a large numbers
of in depth interviews of workers, union representatives and managers from the
case study organizations. Primary data analysis was supplemented with the
analysis of a secondary data set called the British Workplace Representation and
Participation Survey (BWRPS). The BWRPS is a large representative data set of
the UK workforce (Diamond and Freeman 2001). The empirical data was
analysed by using two contrasting theoretical approaches to labour-management
partnership namely: the institutional theory and the political economy approach
(Kelly 2004a, b).
Findings from this research indicate that workers and unIOns In
partnership arrangements had better access to information on employment
related matters and greater direct employee participation in workplace level
decisions. However, access to information or direct employee participation did
not translate into better bargaining outcomes such as payor job security nor did
partnership help unions to improve their membership levels and organization.
To the contrary, unions who engaged in partnership with management suffered a
2decline in their membership levels and erOSIOn of shop steward structures.
Compared to partnership. rank-and-file organizing offered better prospects of
union revival. These findings have been discussed within the competing
theoretical frameworks of the institutional approach and the political economy
approach to partnership