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Looking for HRM/Union Substitution: Evidence from British Workplaces

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  • Stephen Machin
  • Stephen Wood

Abstract

In this paper we test the HRM/union substitution hypothesis that human resource management (HRM) practices act as a substitute for unionization. We use British workplace data between 1980 and 1998 which allows us toexamine for the first time whether increased HRM incidence has coincided with union decline.First, we compare changes over time in the incidence of HRM practices across union and non-union sectors, finding little cross-time difference occurring between sectors. Second, we ask whether newer workplaces (strongly shown by other research as more likely to be non-union) have experienced differentiallyfaster HRM incidence; we are unable to find much evidence in support of this. Third, longitudinal changes alsofail to pick up any evidence of faster union decline in workplaces or industries with faster take up of HRMpractices. We find no evidence of HRM substitution operating in the hypothesised way of it replacing unions and conclude that increased HRM incidence does not seem to be an important factor underpinning union decline in Britain.

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Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by Centre for Economic Performance, LSE in its series CEP Discussion Papers with number dp0605.

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Date of creation: Jan 2004
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Handle: RePEc:cep:cepdps:dp0605

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Web page: http://cep.lse.ac.uk/_new/publications/series.asp?prog=CEP

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Keywords: Human Resource Management; Trade unions;

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  1. Pencavel, John, 2003. "The Surprising Retreat of Union Britain," IZA Discussion Papers 818, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
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