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CEP discussion paper

The Viability of Trade Union Organisation: A Bargaining Unit Analysis


The paper develops a model of trade union behaviour based on the concept of the viable bargaining unit. Bargaining unit viability rests on five conditions; membership level, service level, membership participation, employer recognition and facilities. Viability is achieved by mobilisation of both members and employers. Trade unions may be seen as portfolios of viable and inviable bargaining units. From this, six propositions about trade union structure and behaviour are derived, concerning scale, growth, the impact of statutory recognition provisions, the emergence of conglomerate unions, governance structures and relations with employers. Employer dependence is a crucial element in the model and a simple game theoretic approach is used to discuss employer co-operation. A key conclusion is that viability at the union level is achieved by diversifying portfolios of bargaining units and securing co-operative relations with employers.


P Willman

November 2000     Paper Number CEPDP0477

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