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The Surprising Retreat of Union Britain

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  • John Pencavel

Abstract

After expanding in the 1970s, unionism in Britain contracted substantially over the next two decades. This paper argues that the statutory reforms in the 1980s and 1990s were of less consequence in accounting for the decline of unionism than the withdrawal of the state's indirect support for collective bargaining. The principal goal of the reforms was to boost productivity so the paper examines the link between unions and productivity finding only a small association by the end of the 1990s. Private sector unionism has become highly decentralized which renders it vulnerable to the vagaries of market forces.

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Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 9564.

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Date of creation: Mar 2003
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Publication status: published as John H. Pencavel. "The Surprising Retreat of Union Britain," in David Card, Richard Blundell and Richard B. Freeman, editors, "Seeking a Premier Economy: The Economic Effects of British Economic Reforms, 1980-2000" University of Chicago Press (2004)
Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:9564

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References

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  1. R Disney & A Gosling & Stephen Machin, 1993. "What has Happened to Union Recognition in Britain?," CEP Discussion Papers dp0130, Centre for Economic Performance, LSE.
  2. Haskel, Jonathan, 1991. "Imperfect Competition, Work Practices and Productivity Growth," Oxford Bulletin of Economics and Statistics, Department of Economics, University of Oxford, vol. 53(3), pages 265-79, August.
  3. Machin, Stephen & Stewart, Mark, 1996. "Trade Unions and Financial Performance," Oxford Economic Papers, Oxford University Press, vol. 48(2), pages 213-41, April.
  4. Stephen Machin, 2000. "Union Decline in Britain," British Journal of Industrial Relations, London School of Economics, vol. 38(4), pages 631-645, December.
  5. Andrews, Martyn J. & Stewart, Mark B. & Swaffield, Joanna K. & Upward, Richard, 1998. "The estimation of union wage differentials and the impact of methodological choices," Labour Economics, Elsevier, vol. 5(4), pages 449-474, December.
  6. repec:sae:niesru:v:97:y:1981:i:1:p:83-83 is not listed on IDEAS
  7. Stewart, Mark B, 1986. "Collective Bargaining Arrangements Closed Shops and Relative Pay," The Warwick Economics Research Paper Series (TWERPS) 273, University of Warwick, Department of Economics.
  8. Metcalf, David & Stewart, Mark, 1992. "Closed Shops and Relative Pay: Institutional Arrangements or High Density?," Oxford Bulletin of Economics and Statistics, Department of Economics, University of Oxford, vol. 54(4), pages 503-16, November.
  9. Stewart, Mark B, 1991. "Union Wage Differentials in the Face of Changes in the Economic and Legal Environment," Economica, London School of Economics and Political Science, vol. 58(230), pages 155-72, May.
  10. David Metcalf, 1999. "The British national minimum wage," LSE Research Online Documents on Economics 20229, London School of Economics and Political Science, LSE Library.
  11. Koedijk, C.G. & Kremers, J., 1996. "Market opening, regulation and growth in Europe," Open Access publications from Tilburg University urn:nbn:nl:ui:12-3108676, Tilburg University.
  12. Metcalf, David, 1991. "British Unions: Dissolution or Resurgence?," Oxford Review of Economic Policy, Oxford University Press, vol. 7(1), pages 18-32, Spring.
  13. Andrews, Martyn J & Bell, David N F & Upward, Richard, 1998. "Union Coverage Differentials. Some Estimates for Britain Using the New Earnings Survey Panel Dataset," Oxford Bulletin of Economics and Statistics, Department of Economics, University of Oxford, vol. 60(1), pages 47-77, February.
  14. Parker, David & Martin, Stephen, 1995. "The Impact of UK Privatisation on Labour and Total Factor Productivity," Scottish Journal of Political Economy, Scottish Economic Society, vol. 42(2), pages 201-20, May.
  15. 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, vol. 57(2), pages 143-66, May.
  16. repec:sae:niesru:v:100:y:1982:i:1:p:65-76 is not listed on IDEAS
  17. Stewart, M.B., 1989. "Union Wage Differentials, Product Market Influences And The Division Of Rents," The Warwick Economics Research Paper Series (TWERPS) 323, University of Warwick, Department of Economics.
  18. Richard Freeman & Jeffrey Pelletier, 1991. "The Impact of Industrial Relations Legislation on British Union Density," NBER Working Papers 3167, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  19. David Metcalf, 1999. "The British National Minimum Wage," CEP Discussion Papers dp0419, Centre for Economic Performance, LSE.
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