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Choose one of the following questions and electronically to Turnitin via the Blackboard site by Friday 15 December 2017. You should demonstrate evidence of having consulted a variety of different sources (from the reading lists provided) and of integrating such material with lecture/tutorial notes, practical examples drawn from current employment relations developments and your own personal ideas and arguments.

Which analytical perspective is the most relevant to understanding contemporary employment relations – unitary, pluralist or radical? Utilise case study material to illustrate your point of view.

Does the ‘sophisticated paternalist’ (or HRM) managerial style to the employment relationship provide the means by which the old-style ‘them and us’ between employees and employers can be overcome – yes or no? Utilise case study material to illustrate your point of view.

Are trade unions outmoded and unnecessary – yes or no? Utilise case study material to illustrate your point of view.

What are the advantages to workers of collective bargaining as a method of determining terms and conditions of employment? Why has collective bargaining declined and how has it changed since the early 1980s? Utilise case study material to illustrate your point of view.

Have the employment relations policies of successive Conservative (including Conservative-led coalition) and New Labour governments since 1997 been marked by an essentially ‘neo-liberalist’ character – yes or no?

Why has the public sector been the arena for much of the employment relations conflict that has occurred in Britain over recent years? Utilise case study material to illustrate your point of view.

Is the depiction of non-union employment relations in Britain as a Dickensian ‘Bleak House’ scenario justified – yes or no? Utilise case study material to illustrate your point of view.

Do current forms of employee involvement or participation transfer any real decision-making powers away from managers – yes or no? Utilise case study material to illustrate your point of view.

In the light of the historically low levels of strike activity manifest in recent years in the UK, does this mean that labour conflict is not an important feature of contemporary employment relations – yes or no? Utilise case study material to illustrate your point of view.

To what extent do organisational ‘equal opportunities’ policies help to combat gender disadvantage and inequality in employment relations? Utilise case study material to illustrate your point of view.

Assessing the fortunes of trade unionism today

Trade Unions set the terms and conditions for the employers which are included in the employment contracts of the employees in the bargaining units. A hundred years before the trade unions had a significant role in the industry of the UK, they mainly saved the employees from any harassment in the workplaces. Trade Unions mainly negotiated about workplace safety standards, benefits of the employees, salary issues, working hoys and termination of the employees (Turner 2015). In the past, both employees and employers benefitted from the trade unions and their existence. Of late, the employers know their boundary and they even know the labour policy. The employers nowadays follow the corporate social responsibility and they hardly break the labour and employment laws. The employers are enlightened and the management tries to motivate the employees through giving fringe benefits. On the other side, employees do know their roles and their expectations. In such a situations, trade unions are lost their places and they have little place in the workplace. Trade unions in recent time upset the productivity of the organisation and trade unions object the rewards and benefits that may come in a way with increasing investment.

Therefore, the thesis statement of the study is with the development of insights of modern employers, trade unions have become outmoded.

In the past, when the sole aim of the employers was to make a profit from the organisation and the employee's dignity did not get any value, in this situation trade unions negotiated between employees and employers. In the past, the employees were badly treated and the employers exploited the employees for increased productivity. Most of the employees that time belonged to the labour class and physical strengths was necessary during that period (Clegg et al. 2015). The employees got low wages and employees did not get any benefits. In addition, as opined by Crouch (2013), the role of the trade unions that time was to raise the voice against the employers about the grievance of employees. Trade unions demanded the essential rights of the employees and they managed to negotiate with the employees about the right wages, over time issues and unfair treatment of the employees. A hundred years ago, there were large factories and employees used to work over there, the labour laws were rudimentary and employers took the advantage of the gap between the laws. From that perspective, as stated by Oswald (2015), in the past, employees got several benefits from the trade unions as the trade unions were convenient in negotiating the issues with employers. However, in recent time, the situation has changed and the types of working culture have also been changed. Now-a-days, the employees get used to with the idea of work-life balance, flexible working hours, gig economy and globalisation. In the previous time, the employers also got benefits from the trade unions as the employers did not need to face the sudden strikes or rages of a group of employees, they did not need to face picketing and the issues came to them in systematic ways (Ashenfelter and Johnson 2016). Of late, the employers are aware of the duties and everything has gone to be transparent and laws are modified which secured the labours’ security and benefits. In this situation, the importance of the trade unions gets nullified. The recent changes in the laws of employment in the UK make redundant the trade unions and the employers are now trying to train, attract and retain the skilled employees.

Decline in membership figures and overall density

In recent time, the decline of trade unions is has been continuing for the structural changes in the economy in the last few years. In the US, the manufacturing employment has fallen from 20 million to 12 million during 1980-2016 (Brown and Medoff 2017). This picture clearly shows that the employees who worked in the factories have been significantly decreased and a clear image of ‘class consciousness’ is shown among the employees. In case of globalisation, most of the large organisations have their branches in many parts of the globe and it is difficult for the trade unions to maintain the unity and rules in different parts of the world (Tu and Cai 2015). Therefore, the membership in trade unions has been declining with the overall density in trade unions. In the service sector, the rules have been made flexible by the Conservative-led government in the UK and importance of trade unions seems inevitable. Most of the younger generations are either self-employed or busy in part-time working.

The decline of collective bargaining is another reason for less membership in trade unions. According to Cheng (2017), collective bargaining is the negotiation process between employees and employers and it is aimed at making agreements to regulate the process of working, salaries, benefits and other conditions at the workplace. In the year 1960s, the private sector was shifted from multi-employer national agreements into the local company, the importance of collective bargaining lost its importance and formality. In recent time, smaller employers are increasing and the employers prefer the single table bargaining (Boston and O’Grady 2015).

The recent amendments to Employment Relations Act 2004, it was clearly mentioned about greater protection for the employees and balance of power between employees and employers (Pelling 2016). Thus, the framework mentions the fact that individuals have right to either join trade unions or they may not join. In recent time, the employees join the trade unions less as the large organisations do not have the importance of trade unions. Therefore, the strike activities seem to less and collective bargaining cover the negotiations policy. Moreover, in the UK, the employment legislation have changed over time, as Statutory Maternity Pay, Statutory Paternity Pay, Sick Pay and Adoption Pay for the employees. The employers are giving the compensation to the employees in case any accidents occur during the working hours. In addition, the government in the UK looks for new spending cuts for the labours up to 6% (Tu and Cai 2015). The UK government is planning to save 3.5 billion pounds through this. In this scenario, the large organisations can plan to lower the spending and in this scenario, Trade unions can help the employees. The bargaining process of trade unions can impact on two ways, first their times and again bargaining can lower the productivity and it can lessen the competitive advantage of the organisations. Therefore, the organisations can increase the price of the products and it can pass the consumers directly to raise inflation.

The economics construct the ideas of trade unions as being the market imperfections which can interfere with the freedom of demand and supply to create the optimal wage and employment outcomes (Upchurch and Taylor 2016). In the UK, the trade unions were the integral social institutions of capitalism and the mainstream economics took trade unions as ephemeral institutions that should have been eliminated in order to improve the workplace and market. As stated by Holgate (2015), trade unions are ‘renamed' as idiosyncratic institutions that provide the framework to the organisations. During the time of the 1970s, the British economy was struggling hard and the government did not focus on the British capital. Post-war conditions in the UK were typical poor for the UK economy and international dimension led to accentuate the condition rather than modified the situations. The Conservative Heath Government had noticed the failure of the England's banks and they adopted the Monetarist-style of the money supply. That time chancellor Anthony Barber took the attempt to revive the ailing economy of the UK. Heath took the pledge to challenge the growing resistance of the Trade Unions and the concept of trade unions shifted to the ‘left’. Industrial Relations Act 1971 was introduced in the UK in order to smash the power of bargaining of the trade unions and this act was utilised for the trade unions’ leaders to drag them into the court system and to bankrupt them (Levinson 2013). The Government that time chose to pay the capital neglect from the labourers rather than stimulating the capital investment. The capitalist system of the UK tried to demolish the idea of trade unions and the trade unions took the matter seriously by taking the campaign of ‘kill the bill'. In the year 1972, the National Unions of Miners first started the strike for the out of frustration when the government defend the interest of the trade unions membership.

Collective bargaining coverage

In the UK politics and economics, the period of 1979 is very important for the beginning of Conservative government. Margaret Thatcher started some decisive rules that could break the traditional concept of economics and trade unions. During that period, collective bargaining system started and some of the other rules making systems began. Coordination within the workplace had been done through the firm, quasi0market situation and the associational mechanism has been conducted through trade unions. The focus was on the two levels, employees and employers when the trade unions did negotiate. During that time, trade union problem was solved by the government, however, during the Labour government; there were restrictions, i.e. income policies, employment laws and social contracts (Bishop et al. 2015). In the year 1979, there was a time of neo-corporatism and unions were ambivalent during that time. Trade unions did the work on the joint consultation on employee participation ( ). In this time, the industrial level came to the single-employer level and problem could be solved in bilateral trade unions. In the UK, trade unions and the government both wanted to the development of the private sector. With the advancement of time, the role of the trade unions gradually started to change in private sector as the UK saw the decline of large workplace and manufacturing sector. Trade unions arranged the training programmes; however, the apprenticeship was not supportive of the employees.   

During the time of 1969, the registered employees in trade unions were 13 million; however, this figure touches 6 million only. The trade unions cannot attract the young employees who are almost 40% of the overall employment. The changing economy in the UK challenges the traditional trade union system in the UK. In the labour economy, the automation system has taken place and manufacturing process has been completely changed (Wills 2012).

The trade unions at this time can open an account on social media platforms and the raise their views through these. This strategy would be helpful to reach a young generation and young generation would know the activities of trade unions. Collective bargaining process has changed into roundtable conference and the UK's left of the EU regulation has posed threat towards trade unions. Trade unions can do membership campaign in order to enrol members of their group, In this regard; NASUWT unions started a programme of campaigning in which they started a ‘membership walk'.

Their campaign is against austerity and the trade union is facing the issue of the post-Brexit issue (Upchurch and Taylor 2016). The trade unions can start the old boycott programmes in the workplace so that the employees become aware of the issues they are facing in the single market economy.

Trade unions can start parading with banners in their hands demanding right for the employment and in this case, a big team is needed. The trade unions need to find a topic that is making an issue in the workplace, after that they can start parading to recruit more members of the team. The National Union of Teachers is another large trade union in the UK, they recently started the programme of boycotting at Kings College London in order to validate their demanding.


In today's workplace, employers are enlightened and they try to motivate the employees by giving what they need and want. The employers also take personal feedbacks and risk assessment policies in the workplace. Moreover, unions were necessary for the past, their significance has been minimised. From the time of the 1970s to today, the numbers of members have been decreased significantly. In recent time, the trade unions are trying to increase their membership by starting social networking campaign, boycotting and parading. Labour laws have been reframed keeping minds the necessity of the employees.


Ashenfelter, O. and Johnson, G.E., 2016. Bargaining theory, trade unions, and industrial strike activity. The American Economic Review, 59(1), pp.35-49.

Bishop, M., Kay, J. and Kay, J.A., 2015. Does privatization work?: lessons from the UK. Centre for Business Strategy, London Business School.

Boston, S. and O'Grady, F., 2015. Women workers and the trade unions. London: Lawrence & Wishart.

Brown, C. and Medoff, J., 2017. Trade unions in the production process. Journal of political economy, 86(3), pp.355-378.

Cheng, L., 2017. Organized labour and debt contracting: Firm-level evidence from collective bargaining. Accounting Review, 92(3), pp.57-85.

Clegg, H.A., Fox, A. and Thompson, A.F., 2015. A History of British Trade Unions Since 1889: 1911-1933. London: Clarendon Press.

Crouch, C., 2013. Trade unions: the logic of collective action (Vol. 5873). London: Fontana Press.

Holgate, J., 2015. Community organising in the UK: A ‘new’ approach for trade unions?. Economic and Industrial Democracy, 36(3), pp.431-455.

Levinson, C., 2013. International Trade Unionism (Routledge Revivals). Abingdon: Routledge.

Oswald, A.J., 2015. The economic theory of trade unions: An introductory survey. The Scandinavian Journal of Economics, pp.160-193.

Pelling, H., 2016. A history of British trade unionism. Berlin: Springer.

Tu, W. and Cai, Y., 2015. The Current Legislation of Collective Bargaining Dispute Resolution: An Analysis Based on the Regulations in Germany. Human Resource Development of China, (1), pp.19-26.

Turner, H.A., 2015. Trade union growth: structure and policy: a comparative study of the cotton unions in England. University of Toronto Press.

Upchurch, M. and Taylor, G., 2016. The crisis of social democratic trade unionism in Western Europe: The search for alternatives. Abingdon: Routledge.

Wills, J., 2012. Union futures: building networked trade unionism in the UK (Vol. 602). Fabian Society.

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