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-future of the unions:
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Funded by The Leverhulme Trust
See discussion papers published under this programme.
See news and press coverage related to this programme.
Mid term report now out: available to download in Adobe PDF format (329kb)
Trade unions in Britain now organise just a third of employees, and less than a fifth of union members work in the private sector. The number of workers covered by collective bargaining has also declined so that less than half of the British workforce have their pay and conditions set by collective agreements. Whilst there is evidence of recent union growth, this is small and does not suggest a return to the membership levels of the late 1970s.
The five year Leverhulme-funded programme on the Future of Trade Unions in Modern Britain began in January 2000 to investigate the prospects for union survival. The interdisciplinary programme consists of around twenty inter-related projects examining various factors likely to determine the future of unionism. We seek to answer three main questions:
The twenty projects are grouped into four broad areas:
- What can unions offer both union and non-union workers?
Is there still a demand for traditional union services such as pay and protection or do unions need to adapt their provision to meet new demands? How far can employers create effective and legitimate non-union procedures and channels of representation that will suppress any demand for unionism?
- What can unions offer employers?
Do employers benefit from a union presence, and how does this compare with impact of HRM or social partnership?
Therefore, do the policies of HRM and social partnership create new opportunities or new threats for unions?
- Can unions change their internal organisation?
Given the ways in which unions might have to change, what do we know about their capacity to do this - how adaptable are their objectives and internal organisation?