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Union recognition and membership|
A key element of the Future of Trade Unions research programme is the monitoring of the statutory recognition procedure, introduced in June 2000.
Prior to the legislation taking effect, a large number of voluntary agreements were negotiated, generally based on the acknowledgement, by the employer, of majority union support and membership.
Since the introduction of the legislation, unions have only taken cases to the Central Arbitration Committee (CAC) where they meet the criteria for membership and majority support for recognition, so the legislation has not yet been fully tested.
However, it is thought that in the near future unions will begin to take less clear-cut cases to the CAC. This will allow us to observe the effectiveness of the legislation in dealing with more difficult cases.
US employers have developed anti-union tactics, including the use of 'union-busters' to prevent unions winning recognition claims. The Future of Trade Unions project will assess the likelihood that UK employers develop similar tactics in response to the recognition legislation.
To understand the likely future for trade unions it is necessary to understand the reasons for their decline over the previous two decades:
CEP research has demonstrated that an important reason for union decline is not that employees have decided to leave the union, but rather that unions have been unable to establish themselves in new workplaces and hence pick up membership in these establishments.
In unionised workplaces, even non-members favour unions more than employees in non-union workplaces, and workers' attitudes towards unions become more favourable when they shift from a non-union to a union job.
Whilst there is an expressed willingness to join trade unions amongst manual workers in non-union workplaces, there is no such attitude amongst non-manual workers, and given the growth in white-collar employment, membership decline is likely to continue.
Current CEP research on union recognition and membership:
- Moore, S., Wood, S. and Davies, P. (2000). 'Recognition of Trade Unions - Consultation Over the Access Code and Method of Bargaining', Industrial Law Journal. 29:4:406-415.
- Wood, S. (2001). 'From Voluntarism to Partnership: A Third Way Overview of the Public Policy Debate in British Industrial Relations', in H. Collins, P. Davies and R. Rideout (eds.), Legal Regulation of the Employment Relation. London: Kluwer.
- Machin, S. (2000). 'Union Decline in Britain', British Journal of Industrial Relations. 38:4:631-645. Also available as CEP discussion paper 455. [full doc]
- Diamond, W. and Freeman, R. (2000). 'Liking the Workplace You Have: The Incumbency Effect in Preferences Towards Unions', Working Paper No.1115.
- Charlwood, A. (2001). 'Why do non-union employees want to unionise? Evidence from Britain'. CEP discussion paper 498. [full doc]