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What Has Happened to Union Recognition in Britain?


  • Disney, Richard
  • Gosling, Amanda
  • Machin, Stephen


This paper examines the determinants of establishment-level union recognition status using data from the three Workplace Industrial Relations Surveys of 1980. 1984 and 1990. Our theoretical approach argues that product and labour market variables dated at (or around) the establishment's setup should be considered the crucial determinants of recognition status. Confirmation of these predictions is round for private-sector manufacturing establishments in the econometric analysis. Of particular interest are: (1) the nonlinear relationship between historic industry quasi-rents and recognition status and the stability of this aspect of the model over the three data-sets; and (2) a marked downward shift in recognition probabilities that occurred during the 1980s, which seems to be largely a consequence of the failure to organize new establishments set up in the 1980s. Copyright 1996 by The London School of Economics and Political Science.

Suggested Citation

  • Disney, Richard & Gosling, Amanda & Machin, Stephen, 1996. "What Has Happened to Union Recognition in Britain?," Economica, London School of Economics and Political Science, vol. 63(249), pages 1-18, February.
  • Handle: RePEc:bla:econom:v:63:y:1996:i:249:p:1-18

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    Cited by:

    1. Richard Disney & Jonathan Haskel & Ylva Heden, 2003. "Restructuring and productivity growth in uk manufacturing," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 113(489), pages 666-694, July.
    2. Addison, John T. & Heywood, John S. & Wei, Xiangdong, 2001. "Unions and Plant Closings in Britain: New Evidence from the 1990/98 WERS," IZA Discussion Papers 352, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
    3. A Charlwood, 2001. "Why Do Non-Union Employees Want To Unionise? Evidence from Britain," CEP Discussion Papers dp0498, Centre for Economic Performance, LSE.
    4. Robin Naylor, 1995. "Unions in Decline?," Nordic Journal of Political Economy, Nordic Journal of Political Economy, vol. 22, pages 127-142.
    5. Card, David & de la Rica, Sara, 2004. "The Effect of Firm-Level Contracts on the Structure of Wages: Evidence from Matched Employer-Employee Data," IZA Discussion Papers 1421, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
    6. Stephen Machin, 2000. "Union Decline in Britain," British Journal of Industrial Relations, London School of Economics, vol. 38(4), pages 631-645, December.
    7. Chrysanthou, Georgios Marios, 2008. "Estimating union wage effects in Great Britain during 1991-2003," UC3M Working papers. Economics we082214, Universidad Carlos III de Madrid. Departamento de Economía.
    8. Blanchflower, David G., 2006. "A Cross-Country Study of Union Membership," IZA Discussion Papers 2016, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
    9. John H. Pencavel, 2004. "The Surprising Retreat of Union Britain," NBER Chapters,in: Seeking a Premier Economy: The Economic Effects of British Economic Reforms, 1980-2000, pages 181-232 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    10. Gardner, Jonathan & Oswald, Andrew J., 2001. "What Has Been Happening to the Quality of Workers’ Lives in Britain?," The Warwick Economics Research Paper Series (TWERPS) 617, University of Warwick, Department of Economics.
    11. Brown, W & Hudson, M & Deakin, S & Pratten, C, 2001. "The Limits of Statutory Trade Union Recognition," Working Papers wp199, Centre for Business Research, University of Cambridge.
    12. William Brown & Paul Ryan, 2003. "The Irrelevance of Trade union Recognition? A Comparison of Two Matched Companies," Australian Journal of Labour Economics (AJLE), Bankwest Curtin Economics Centre (BCEC), Curtin Business School, vol. 6(3), pages 383-408, September.
    13. De la Rica Goiricelaya, Sara & González de San Román Rosado, Ainara, 2007. "The Impact of Firm Level Contracting on Wage Levels and Inequality: Spain 1995-2002," DFAEII Working Papers 2007-07, University of the Basque Country - Department of Foundations of Economic Analysis II.
    14. Wiji Arulampalam & Alison L. Booth, 2000. "Union status of young men in Britain: a decade of change," Journal of Applied Econometrics, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., vol. 15(3), pages 289-310.
    15. Georgios Marios Chrysanthou, 2007. "Determinants of Trade Union Membership in Great Britain During 1991-2003," Discussion Papers 07/01, Department of Economics, University of York.
    16. Haile, Getinet Astatike, 2012. "Union Decline in Britain: Is Chauvinism Also to Blame?," IZA Discussion Papers 6536, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
    17. Stephen Machin, 1995. "Plant Closures and Unionization in British Establishments," British Journal of Industrial Relations, London School of Economics, vol. 33(1), pages 55-68, March.

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