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

Author

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  • 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.

Suggested Citation

  • Addison, John T. & Belfield, Clive R., 2002. "Unions and Establishment Performance: Evidence from the British Workplace Industrial/Employee Relations Surveys," IZA Discussion Papers 455, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  • Handle: RePEc:iza:izadps:dp455
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Machin, Stephen & Stewart, Mark, 1996. "Trade Unions and Financial Performance," Oxford Economic Papers, Oxford University Press, vol. 48(2), pages 213-241, April.
    2. Bryson, Alex, 2002. "The union membership wage premium: an analysis using propensity score matching," LSE Research Online Documents on Economics 4953, London School of Economics and Political Science, LSE Library.
    3. David G. Blanchflower, 1997. "Changes Over Time in Union Relative Wage Effects in Great Britain and the United States," NBER Working Papers 6100, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    4. 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 143-166, May.
    5. Martin Conyon & Richard B. Freeman, 2004. "Shared Modes of Compensation and Firm Performance U.K. Evidence," NBER Chapters,in: Seeking a Premier Economy: The Economic Effects of British Economic Reforms, 1980-2000, pages 109-146 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    6. Sue Fernie & David Metcalf, 1995. "Participation, Contingent Pay, Representation and Workplace Performance: Evidence from Great Britain," British Journal of Industrial Relations, London School of Economics, vol. 33(3), pages 379-415, September.
    7. Olaf H¸bler & Uwe Jirjahn, 2003. "Works Councils and Collective Bargaining in Germany: The Impact on Productivity and Wages," Scottish Journal of Political Economy, Scottish Economic Society, vol. 50(4), pages 471-491, September.
    8. Machin, Stephen J, 1991. "The Productivity Effects of Unionization and Firm Size in British Engineering Firms," Economica, London School of Economics and Political Science, vol. 58(232), pages 479-490, November.
    9. Manning, Alan, 1993. "Pre-strike Ballots and Wage-Employment Bargaining," Oxford Economic Papers, Oxford University Press, vol. 45(3), pages 422-439, July.
    10. Stephen Machin, 2000. "Union Decline in Britain," British Journal of Industrial Relations, London School of Economics, vol. 38(4), pages 631-645, December.
    11. McNabb, Robert & Whitfield, Keith, 1998. "The Impact of Financial Participation and Employee Involvement on Financial Performance," Scottish Journal of Political Economy, Scottish Economic Society, vol. 45(2), pages 171-187, May.
    12. Blanchflower, David G & Millward, Neil & Oswald, Andrew J, 1991. "Unionism and Employment Behaviour," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 101(407), pages 815-834, July.
    13. Booth, Alison L & McCulloch, Andrew, 1999. "Redundancy Pay, Unions and Employment," Manchester School, University of Manchester, vol. 67(3), pages 346-366, 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," National Institute of Economic and Social Research (NIESR) Discussion Papers 382, National Institute of Economic and Social Research.
    2. 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).
    3. John T. Addison & Paulino Teixeira & Alex Bryson & André Pahnke, 2013. "Collective Agreement Status and Survivability: Change and Persistence in the German Model," LABOUR, CEIS, vol. 27(3), pages 288-309, September.
    4. John T. Addison & Paulino Teixeira, 2005. "The Effect of Works Councils on Employment Change," GEMF Working Papers 2005-06, GEMF, Faculty of Economics, University of Coimbra.
    5. 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).
    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. 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).
    8. 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.
    9. repec:iab:iabzaf:v:40:i:4:p:361-381 is not listed on IDEAS
    10. Addison, John T. & Belfield, Clive R., 2008. "Unions, Training, and Firm Performance," IZA Discussion Papers 3294, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).

    More about this item

    Keywords

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

    JEL classification:

    • J24 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demand and Supply of Labor - - - Human Capital; Skills; Occupational Choice; Labor Productivity
    • J51 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Labor-Management Relations, Trade Unions, and Collective Bargaining - - - Trade Unions: Objectives, Structure, and Effects
    • J53 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Labor-Management Relations, Trade Unions, and Collective Bargaining - - - Labor-Management Relations; Industrial Jurisprudence
    • J58 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Labor-Management Relations, Trade Unions, and Collective Bargaining - - - Public Policy
    • J63 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Mobility, Unemployment, Vacancies, and Immigrant Workers - - - Turnover; Vacancies; Layoffs
    • J65 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Mobility, Unemployment, Vacancies, and Immigrant Workers - - - Unemployment Insurance; Severance Pay; Plant Closings

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