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Trade Unions : Growth, Structure and Policy

Waddington, Jeremy and Whitston, Colin (1995) Trade Unions : Growth, Structure and Policy. In: Industrial Relations : theory & practice in Britain. Blackwell Publisher Ltd, Oxford, pp. 151-202. ISBN 0631191666

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Two major recessions since 1979, dramatic shifts in economic structure, and the impact of neo-liberalism on public policy have had wide-ranging effects on levels of unionization, the political legitimacy of unions, and the confidence and ability of unions to adjust. Since 1979, membership has declined every year. As discussed elsewhere in this book, legislation has restricted union activity and functions (chapter 9), and employers have introduced a range of workplace changes which have undermined bargaining power (chapters 4 and 7).

Broadly, analyses of the effects of these changes on unions fall into two categories: those that stress decline and those for which continuity is the key, with the result that some commentators see unionism being 'tamed', or in terminal decline, while others view it as undergoing a process of renewal. The purpose of this chapter is to review those arguments. It argues that the debate between decline and continuity too often obscures the contribution of unions themselves in the process of change, and tends to reduce organized labour simply to the object of external changes. It shows that political change and managerial practice have exposed tensions in unions between unifying and divisive tendencies. While unionists are attempting to establish a new agenda and practices to bolster cohesion, this chapter contends that this process has only just begun and that its outcome remains in the balance.

Item Type: Book Section
Subjects: H Social Sciences > HD Industries. Land use. Labor > Issues of Labour and Work > Industrial Relations
Divisions: School of Business > Staff Research and Publications
Depositing User: Caoimhe Ní Mhaicín
Date Deposited: 26 May 2014 12:54
Last Modified: 26 May 2014 12:54

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