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A Good Time to Stay Out? Strikes and the Business Cycle

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  • Devereux, Paul J.

    (University College Dublin)

  • Hart, Robert A.

    (University of Stirling)

Abstract

In this paper, we compile a unique historical dataset that records strike activity in the British engineering industry from 1920 to 1970. These data have the advantage of containing a fairly homogenous set of companies and workers, covering a long period with varying labour market conditions, including information that enables the addition of union and company fixed effects, and providing geographical detail that allows a district-level analysis that controls for year and seasonal effects. We study the cyclicality of strike durations, strike incidence, and strike outcomes and distinguish between pay and non-pay strikes. Like the previous literature, we find evidence that strikes over pay have countercyclical durations. However, in the post-war period, the magnitude of this effect is much reduced when union and firm fixed effects are included. These findings suggest that it is important when studying strike durations to take account of differences in the composition of companies and unions that are involved in strikes at different points of the business cycle. We also find that strike outcomes tend to be more favourable to unions when the national unemployment rate is lower.

Suggested Citation

  • Devereux, Paul J. & Hart, Robert A., 2008. "A Good Time to Stay Out? Strikes and the Business Cycle," IZA Discussion Papers 3614, Institute of Labor Economics (IZA).
  • Handle: RePEc:iza:izadps:dp3614
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    Cited by:

    1. Gary-Bobo, Robert J. & Jaaidane, Touria, 2014. "Strikes and slowdown in a theory of relational contracts," European Journal of Political Economy, Elsevier, vol. 36(C), pages 89-116.
    2. Stefan Oliver Houpt & Juan Carlos Rojo Cagigal, 2014. "Relative deprivation and labour conflict during Spain’s industrialization: the Bilbao estuary, 1914–1936," Cliometrica, Journal of Historical Economics and Econometric History, Association Française de Cliométrie (AFC), vol. 8(3), pages 335-369, September.
    3. Henri Fraisse & Francis Kramarz & Corinne Prost, 2015. "Labor Disputes and Job Flows," ILR Review, Cornell University, ILR School, vol. 68(5), pages 1043-1077, October.
    4. Hart, Robert A., 2009. "Workers Made Idle by Company Strikes and the 'British Disease'," IZA Discussion Papers 4248, Institute of Labor Economics (IZA).
    5. Darío Judzik & Eduardo Levy Yeyati & Martín Montané, 2022. "A New Labor Conflict Index for Argentina: Preliminary Findings," Working Papers 120, Red Nacional de Investigadores en Economía (RedNIE).

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    More about this item

    Keywords

    outcome; strikes; cyclicality; duration; incidence;
    All these keywords.

    JEL classification:

    • E32 - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics - - Prices, Business Fluctuations, and Cycles - - - Business Fluctuations; Cycles
    • J31 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Wages, Compensation, and Labor Costs - - - Wage Level and Structure; Wage Differentials

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