This is an extract of our Unions document, which we sell as part of our Employment Relations Notes collection written by the top tier of Oxford University students.
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ONS figures 2014: 25.6% of employees are members of trade unions - 6.5m, the lowest rate recorded since 1995 (32.5%). Workers have an interest in independent representation as a means of improving their terms and conditions of employment
? suggests a wide and growing representation gap (Heery). Bryson and Freeman estimated gap to be 10% BUT expressed preferences might reflect habituation to existing arrangements, social constraints that limit options and inadequate information about alternatives - unions are an experience good. Equally there are many workplaces where 'hollow shell' unionization exists, a union is recognized but has no power and is rarely consulted (Blanchflower et al) as shown by the substantial fall in the union wage premium.
Reasons for decline
? Heery: the rise of the neoliberal political economy - state seeks to release market forces from inhibiting regulation and employers, and under more intense competition renege on earlier settlements with organized labour. Led to policies like below.
? Brown et al: legislation changes to restore the labour market under Thatcher: o Employment Act 1982 - unions could be sued in tort. Became unlawful for industrial action to involve secondary action, secondary picketing, action in defence of the closed shop, and action in support of union recognition by third party employers. Changes used by employers to tilt the balance of power in their favour during strikes. o Competition policy: props to collective bargaining removed, reducing the power of wage councils. o Re-regulation of collective action - regulation to restrict the scope for collective action by workers. Complex procedural requirements relating to the conduct of industrial action, the recruitment and organization of members and internal union governance. Protected employers by allowing dismissal of those in unauthorized strikes. o Faced with industrial action which began prior to a ballot, a union could endorse the action and automatically face legal consequences, or repudiate it, leaving members vulnerable to selective dismissals.
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