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CEP Discussion Paper
Transformation of British Industrial Relations? Institutions, Conduct and Outcomes 1980-1990
David Metcalf
March 1993
Paper No' CEPDP0151:
Full Paper (pdf)

The institutions and conduct of British industrial relations changed fundamentally in the last decade or so. Union membership haemorrhaged. Management prerogatives were restored. Management often extricated itself from previous pluralist arrangements involving joint regulation with unions. Under half of employees are now covered by collective agreements. The industrial relations environment has become harsher. Product market competition has intensified. Legislative changes have undermined collectivism. But what of the performance outcomes? Here the story is very different. The industrial relations system can no longer be held to stymie companies' achievements. But this is not a 'transformation'. It simply reflects compliance of labour in the conduct of workplace relations. The impact of changes in industrial relations institutions and conduct on the pay/jobs trade-off are even more actutely depressing. The pay-setting institutions have certainly been transformed. The government has achieved virtually all it set out to do yet unemployment rises inexorably to a post-war record high.