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Unions and Establishment Performance: Evidence from the British Workplace Industrial/Employee Relations Surveys

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Author Info

  • Addison, John T.

    ()
    (University of South Carolina)

  • Belfield, Clive R.

    ()
    (Queens College, CUNY)

Abstract

An interesting aspect of British research on unions based on the Workplace Industrial/ Employment Relations Surveys has been the apparent shift in union impact on establishment performance in the decade of the 1990s compared with the 1980s – and the recent scramble to explain the phenomenon. In this contribution, we chart these changes along the dimensions of financial performance, labor productivity, employment, quits, absenteeism, industrial relations climate, and plant closings. Using the most recent workplace survey, we also investigate the controversial notion that union influence is positive where unions are strong and is negative where unions are weak. This notion, encountered in recent research in Britain (and Germany), emphasizes the benefits of the collective voice of unions, arguing that this voice is only 'heard' when the union is strong or a credible agent. We examine this contention for a fuller array of definitions of union influence and workplace performance measures. Overall, our discussion reveals some evidence that is consistent with reduced bargaining power in the wake of anti-union reform measures and heightened product market competition. On the other hand, there is little support for the recherché notion that stronger unions have a beneficial impact, yet weaker ones do not.

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Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA) in its series IZA Discussion Papers with number 455.

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Length: 40 pages
Date of creation: Mar 2002
Date of revision:
Publication status: published in: Phanindra V. Wunnava (ed.), The Changing Role of Unions: New Forms of Representation, Armonk, N.Y.: M.E. Sharpe, April 2004
Handle: RePEc:iza:izadps:dp455

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Related research

Keywords: plant closings; Union strength; hierarchy of effects; financial performance; labor productivity; employment change; quits; absenteeism; employee attitudes;

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References

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  1. Stephen Machin, 2000. "Union decline in Britain," LSE Research Online Documents on Economics, London School of Economics and Political Science, LSE Library 20191, London School of Economics and Political Science, LSE Library.
  2. Alex Bryson, 2002. "The union membership wage premium: an analysis using propensity score matching," LSE Research Online Documents on Economics, London School of Economics and Political Science, LSE Library 4953, London School of Economics and Political Science, LSE Library.
  3. Alan Manning, 1991. "Pre-Strike Ballots and Wage-Employment Bargaining," CEP Discussion Papers, Centre for Economic Performance, LSE dp0019, Centre for Economic Performance, LSE.
  4. Machin, S.J., 1988. "The Productivity Effects Of Unionisation And Firm Size In British Engineering Firms," The Warwick Economics Research Paper Series (TWERPS), University of Warwick, Department of Economics 293, University of Warwick, Department of Economics.
  5. McNabb, Robert & Whitfield, Keith, 1998. "The Impact of Financial Participation and Employee Involvement on Financial Performance," Scottish Journal of Political Economy, Scottish Economic Society, Scottish Economic Society, vol. 45(2), pages 171-87, May.
  6. Blanchflower, D-G, 1997. "Changes Over Time in Union Relative Wage Effects in Great Britain and the United States," Papers, Centre for Economic Performance & Institute of Economics 15, Centre for Economic Performance & Institute of Economics.
  7. Martin J. Conyon & Richard B. Freeman, 2002. "Shared modes of compensation and firm performance: UK evidence," LSE Research Online Documents on Economics, London School of Economics and Political Science, LSE Library 20060, London School of Economics and Political Science, LSE Library.
  8. Hübler, Olaf & Jirjahn, Uwe, 2001. "Works Councils and Collective Bargaining in Germany: The Impact on Productivity and Wages," IZA Discussion Papers 322, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  9. Blanchflower, David G & Millward, Neil & Oswald, Andrew J, 1991. "Unionism and Employment Behaviour," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, Royal Economic Society, vol. 101(407), pages 815-34, July.
  10. Stewart, Mark B, 1995. "Union Wage Differentials in an Era of Declining Unionization," Oxford Bulletin of Economics and Statistics, Department of Economics, University of Oxford, Department of Economics, University of Oxford, vol. 57(2), pages 143-66, May.
  11. Stephen Machin & M Stewart, 1995. "Trade Unions and Financial Performance," CEP Discussion Papers, Centre for Economic Performance, LSE dp0242, Centre for Economic Performance, LSE.
  12. Booth, Alison L & McCulloch, Andrew, 1999. "Redundancy Pay, Unions and Employment," Manchester School, University of Manchester, University of Manchester, vol. 67(3), pages 346-66, June.
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Citations

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Cited by:
  1. Dr Alex Bryson, 2011. "Change and Persistence in the German Model of Collective Bargaining and Worker Representation," NIESR Discussion Papers, National Institute of Economic and Social Research 3059, National Institute of Economic and Social Research.
  2. Addison, John T. & Siebert, W. Stanley, 2002. "Changes in Collective Bargaining in the U.K," IZA Discussion Papers 562, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  3. John T. Addison & Paulino Teixeira, 2005. "The Effect of Works Councils on Employment Change," GEMF Working Papers, GEMF - Faculdade de Economia, Universidade de Coimbra 2005-06, GEMF - Faculdade de Economia, Universidade de Coimbra.
  4. Addison, John T. & Belfield, Clive R., 2007. "Unions, training and firm performance," Zeitschrift für ArbeitsmarktForschung - Journal for Labour Market Research, Institut für Arbeitsmarkt- und Berufsforschung (IAB), Nürnberg [Institute for Employment Research, Nuremberg, Germany], vol. 40(4), pages 361-381.
  5. John T. Addison & Paulino Teixeira & Alex Bryson & André Pahnke, 2011. "Collective Agreement Status and Survivability: Change and Persistence in the German Model," GEMF Working Papers, GEMF - Faculdade de Economia, Universidade de Coimbra 2011-15, GEMF - Faculdade de Economia, Universidade de Coimbra, revised Apr 2013.
  6. Addison, John T. & Teixeira, Paulino & Bryson, Alex & Pahnke, André, 2011. "The Structure of Collective Bargaining and Worker Representation: Change and Persistence in the German Model," IZA Discussion Papers 5987, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  7. repec:iab:iabzaf:v:40:i:4:p:361-381 is not listed on IDEAS
  8. Addison, John T. & Belfield, Clive R., 2002. "Unions and Employment Growth: The One Constant?," IZA Discussion Papers 479, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  9. Addison, John T. & Teixeira, Paulino, 2004. "The Effect of Worker Representation on Employment Behavior in Germany: Another Case of -2.5%," IZA Discussion Papers 1188, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).

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