British Unions in Decline: An Examination of the 1980s Fall in Trade Union Recognition

35 Pages Posted: 24 Nov 2000

See all articles by Richard F. Disney

Richard F. Disney

University of Nottingham; Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS); Axia Economics

Amanda Gosling

University of Essex - Department of Economics; Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS); Centre for Economic Policy Research (CEPR)

Stephen J. Machin

London School of Economics & Political Science (LSE) - Centre for Economic Performance (CEP); London School of Economics & Political Science (LSE) - Department of Economics

Date Written: May 1994

Abstract

The authors analyze establishment-level data from the three Workplace Industrial Relations Surveys of 1980, 1984 and 1990 to document and explain the sharp decline in unionization that occurred in Britain over the 1980s. Between 1980 and 1990 the proportion of British establishments which recognised manual or non-manual trade unions for collective bargaining over pay and conditions fell by almost 20 percent (from 0.67 to 0.54). The evidence reported demonstrates the importance of the interaction between the labour market, the product market, employer behaviour and the legislative framework in determining union recognition status in new establishments. The sharp fall in trade union recognition appears to be largely driven by a failure to achieve recognition status in establishments set up in the 1980s. These results, when taken in conjunction with recent changes in the nature of employment in the British labour market, seem to paint a bleak picture for unions and there appears to be no reason why the decline in union activity should not continue into the 1990s.

Suggested Citation

Disney, Richard F. and Gosling, Amanda and Machin, Stephen J., British Unions in Decline: An Examination of the 1980s Fall in Trade Union Recognition (May 1994). NBER Working Paper No. w4733. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=250345

Richard F. Disney (Contact Author)

University of Nottingham ( email )

School of Economics
Nottingham NG7 2RD
United Kingdom
+44 115 951 5620 (Phone)
+44 115 951 4159 (Fax)

Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS)

7 Ridgmount Street
London, WC1E 7AE
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Axia Economics ( email )

38 Concanon Road
London SW2 5TA
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Amanda Gosling

University of Essex - Department of Economics ( email )

Wivenhoe Park
Colchester CO4 3SQ
United Kingdom
+44 12 0687 2768 (Phone)
+44 12 0687 2724 (Fax)

Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS)

7 Ridgmount Street
London, WC1E 7AE
United Kingdom

Centre for Economic Policy Research (CEPR)

London
United Kingdom

Stephen J. Machin

London School of Economics & Political Science (LSE) - Centre for Economic Performance (CEP) ( email )

Houghton Street
London WC2A 2AE
United Kingdom

London School of Economics & Political Science (LSE) - Department of Economics ( email )

Houghton Street
London WC2A 2AE
United Kingdom

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