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Trading Places: Employers, Unions and the Manufacture of Voice

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  • Alex Bryson
  • Rafael Gomez
  • P Willman

Abstract

Using nationally representative workplace data for Britain we show that over the last quarter century union voice - especially union-only voice - has been associated with poorer climate, more industrial action, poorer financial performance and poorer labour productivity than nonunion voice and, in particular, direct voice. On the other hand, union-based voice regimes have experienced lower quit rates than non-union and "no voice" regimes, as theory predicts. Over that time, while the workplace incidence of voice has remained constant, with roughly 8 workplaces out of 10 providing some form of voice, there has been a big shift from union to non-union voice, particularly direct employer-made voice. Thus employers are prepared generally to bear the costs of voice provision and manifest a reluctance to engage with their workforce without voice mechanisms in place. The associations between non-union voice mechanisms and desirable workplace outcomes suggest that these costs may be lower than the benefits voice generates.

Suggested Citation

  • Alex Bryson & Rafael Gomez & P Willman, 2008. "Trading Places: Employers, Unions and the Manufacture of Voice," CEP Discussion Papers dp0884, Centre for Economic Performance, LSE.
  • Handle: RePEc:cep:cepdps:dp0884
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Bryson, Alex & Gomez, Rafael, 2003. "Why have workers stopped joining unions?," LSE Research Online Documents on Economics 20022, London School of Economics and Political Science, LSE Library.
    2. Alex Bryson & Richard B. Freeman, 2006. "Worker Needs and Voice in the US and the UK," NBER Working Papers 12310, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    3. Willman, Paul & Bryson, Alex, 2007. "Union organization in Great Britain," LSE Research Online Documents on Economics 19762, London School of Economics and Political Science, LSE Library.
    4. Alex Bryson & Paul Willman & Rafael Gomez & Tobias Kretschmer, 2007. "Employee Voice and Human Resource Management: An Empirical Analysis using British Data," PSI Research Discussion Series 27, Policy Studies Institute, UK.
    5. David G. Blanchflower & Alex Bryson, 2010. "The Wage Impact of Trade Unions in the UK Public and Private Sectors," Economica, London School of Economics and Political Science, vol. 77(305), pages 92-109, January.
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    Cited by:

    1. Bryson, Alex & Dale-Olsen, Harald & Barth, Erling, 2009. "How does innovation affect worker well-being?," LSE Research Online Documents on Economics 27781, London School of Economics and Political Science, LSE Library.
    2. John M. Krieg & Charles S. Wassell Jr. & David W. Hedrick & Steven E. Henson, 2013. "Collective Bargaining and Faculty Job Satisfaction," Industrial Relations: A Journal of Economy and Society, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 52(3), pages 619-644, July.

    More about this item

    Keywords

    worker voice; trade unions; quits; employment relations; labour productivity; financial performance; industrial action;

    JEL classification:

    • J5 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Labor-Management Relations, Trade Unions, and Collective Bargaining
    • J51 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Labor-Management Relations, Trade Unions, and Collective Bargaining - - - Trade Unions: Objectives, Structure, and Effects
    • J52 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Labor-Management Relations, Trade Unions, and Collective Bargaining - - - Dispute Resolution: Strikes, Arbitration, and Mediation
    • J53 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Labor-Management Relations, Trade Unions, and Collective Bargaining - - - Labor-Management Relations; Industrial Jurisprudence
    • L25 - Industrial Organization - - Firm Objectives, Organization, and Behavior - - - Firm Performance
    • M54 - Business Administration and Business Economics; Marketing; Accounting; Personnel Economics - - Personnel Economics - - - Labor Management

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