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The Surprising Retreat of Union Britain

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  • Pencavel, John

    () (Stanford University)

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.

Suggested Citation

  • Pencavel, John, 2003. "The Surprising Retreat of Union Britain," IZA Discussion Papers 818, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  • Handle: RePEc:iza:izadps:dp818
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    Cited by:

    1. Machin, Stephen & Wood, Stephen, 2004. "Looking for HRM/union substitution: evidence from British workplaces," LSE Research Online Documents on Economics 19999, London School of Economics and Political Science, LSE Library.
    2. Blanchflower, David G. & Bryson, Alex, 2008. "Union decline in Britain," LSE Research Online Documents on Economics 19603, London School of Economics and Political Science, LSE Library.
    3. Boulhol, Herv, 2009. "Do capital market and trade liberalization trigger labor market deregulation?," Journal of International Economics, Elsevier, vol. 77(2), pages 223-233, April.
    4. David Card & Richard B. Freeman, 2004. "What Have Two Decades of British Economic Reform Delivered?," NBER Chapters,in: Seeking a Premier Economy: The Economic Effects of British Economic Reforms, 1980-2000, pages 9-62 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    5. John Godard, 2003. "Labour Unions, Workplace Rights and Canadian Public Policy," Canadian Public Policy, University of Toronto Press, vol. 29(4), pages 449-467, December.
    6. A Charlwood, 2005. "The De-Collectivisation of Pay Setting in Britain 1990-1998: Incidence, Determinants and Impact," CEP Discussion Papers dp0705, Centre for Economic Performance, LSE.
    7. Zagelmeyer, Stefan, 2003. "Die Entwicklung kollektiver Verhandlungen in Großbritannien: ein historischer Überblick," Discussion Papers 17, Friedrich-Alexander University Erlangen-Nuremberg, Chair of Labour and Regional Economics.
    8. Hervé Boulhol & Sabien Dobbelaere & Sara Maioli, 2011. "Imports as Product and Labour Market Discipline," British Journal of Industrial Relations, London School of Economics, vol. 49(2), pages 331-361, June.
    9. A Charlwood, 2003. "The Anatomy of Union Decline in Britain: 1990-1998," CEP Discussion Papers dp0601, Centre for Economic Performance, LSE.
    10. S. Dobbelaere, 2003. "Joint Estimation of Price-Cost Margins and Union Bargaining Power for Belgian Manufacturing," Working Papers of Faculty of Economics and Business Administration, Ghent University, Belgium 03/171, Ghent University, Faculty of Economics and Business Administration.
    11. Alex Bryson & P Willman, 2007. "Union Organization in Great Britain," CEP Discussion Papers dp0774, Centre for Economic Performance, LSE.
    12. Susan Hayter, 2011. "Introduction," Chapters,in: The Role of Collective Bargaining in the Global Economy, chapter 1 Edward Elgar Publishing.
    13. A Charlwood, 2001. "Why Do Non-Union Employees Want To Unionise? Evidence from Britain," CEP Discussion Papers dp0498, Centre for Economic Performance, LSE.
    14. Vassilis Monastiriotis, 2007. "Union Retreat and Regional Economic Performance: The UK Experience," Regional Studies, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 41(2), pages 143-156.
    15. Davide Antonioli & Massimiliano Mazzanti, 2009. "Techno-organisational strategies, environmental innovations and economic performances. Micro-evidence from an SME-based industrial district," Journal of Innovation Economics, De Boeck Université, vol. 0(1), pages 145-168.
    16. Blanchflower, David G., 2006. "A Cross-Country Study of Union Membership," IZA Discussion Papers 2016, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
    17. John Van Reenen, 2001. "The new economy: reality and policy," Fiscal Studies, Institute for Fiscal Studies, vol. 22(3), pages 307-336, September.
    18. Helge Sanner, 2006. "Imperfect goods and labor markets, and the union wage gap," Journal of Population Economics, Springer;European Society for Population Economics, vol. 19(1), pages 119-136, February.
    19. David Metcalf, 2002. "Unions and Productivity, Financial Performance and Investment: International Evidence," CEP Discussion Papers dp0539, Centre for Economic Performance, LSE.
    20. David Card & Thomas Lemieux & W. Craig Riddell, 2003. "Unionization and Wage Inequality: A Comparative Study of the U.S, the U.K., and Canada," NBER Working Papers 9473, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    21. Helge Sanner, 2003. "Imperfect Goods and Labor Markets, Regulation, and Spillover Effects," Volkswirtschaftliche Diskussionsbeiträge 56, Universität Potsdam, Wirtschafts- und Sozialwissenschaftliche Fakultät.
    22. Charlwood, Andy, 2005. "The de-collectivisation of pay setting in Britain 1990-1998: incidence, determinants and impact," LSE Research Online Documents on Economics 19881, London School of Economics and Political Science, LSE Library.
    23. James J. Heckman, 2002. "Flexibility and Job Creation: Lessons for Germany," NBER Working Papers 9194, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.

    More about this item

    Keywords

    Britain; unions;

    JEL classification:

    • J5 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Labor-Management Relations, Trade Unions, and Collective Bargaining

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