Collective Bargaining, Pay Rises and Organizational Outcomes in Unionised Workplaces during and after the Recession

Friday, June 24, 2016: 4:15 PM-5:45 PM
187 Dwinelle (Dwinelle Hall)
Danat Valizade, University of Leeds, Leeds, United Kingdom
Robert MacKenzie, University of Leeds, Leeds, United Kingdom
Chris Forde, University of Leeds, Leeds, United Kingdom
Hugh Cook, University of Leeds, Leeds, United Kingdom
The repercussions of the Great recession, on-going organisational restructuring and cutbacks on public spending have posed further challenges to trade unions in contemporary capitalist economies (Kerrissey, 2015; Marginson, 2015; Roche et al., 2015). Whilst trade union decline seems irreversible (Hyman, 1997), unions seek for various means by which their power at the workplace level and beyond organizational boundaries can be restored (MacKenzie, 2010; Visser, 2013). These include, for example, restructuring of bargaining priorities, involvement in dialogue with managers and unionisation of contingent labour (Levesque and Murray, 2010; Gumbrell-Mccormick, 2011).

This paper examines the transformation in trade union collective bargaining priorities during and after the most recent recession, and links them with trade union and organizational gains involving pay rises, the use of contingent labour, employees’ job security and organizational performance. It does so through an advanced quantitative analysis of an original survey of trade unions’ workplace representatives and negotiators across all regions of the Trades Union Congress (TUC) in England. We employ factor analysis to uncover the dynamics of bargaining priorities and Latent Class Analysis (LCA), a statistical method for finding subtypes of related cases in the data, to unravel the taxonomy of pay rises in unionised workplaces. We further use regression analysis to demonstrate the effect of shifts in bargaining priorities on the outcomes accruable to trade unions. Despite a clear sectoral effect, such that trade unions in the public sector, due to massive cuts to public spending, struggle to secure pay increases for union members, an inclusive approach to collective bargaining is predominantly lucrative for trade unions. Where trade union collective bargaining policies are coherent and inclusive of contextually relevant priorities involving the issues of organisational restructuring and employers’ use of contingent labour, trade unions exert greater power at the workplace level, attain higher levels of jobs security and help organizations overcome the upshots of the economic recession. Likewise, by operating on bundles of collective bargaining priorities trade unions increase the likelihood for pay rises above the inflation rates, even during the peak of the recession.

The paper demonstrates that all successful trade unions are alike, in that they achieve pay rises for their members, hold management to account and appear to be valuable for organizational performance. Each weak trade union however is unique in its misery. Such striking variation, we suggest, is entrenched in trade unions’ ability to articulate coherent bundles of collective bargaining priorities. Not only does this add nuance to a debate in the contemporary literature dominated by the demise of collective bargaining, but it also suggests that embedding contextually relevant issues involving, at the current phase, employers’ use of contingent labour and organisational restructuring in bargaining priorities is a task of great importance for trade unions.