Contemporary Industrial Relations: A Critical Analysis

Contemporary Industrial Relations: A Critical Analysis

Contemporary Industrial Relations: A Critical Analysis

Contemporary Industrial Relations: A Critical Analysis


Industrial relations have undergone significant and extensive change over the last fifteen years. The combined impact of government legislation, international competition, and organizational restructuring has affected union organization and membership; the scope and content of collective bargaining; and the organization, objectives and nature of work. The extent of these changes raises important questions about industrial relations and human resource management in contemporary Britain and demands fresh analysis. In Contemporary Industrial Relations leading authorities address these issues with a detailed and comprehensive analysis of current trends. Topics covered include: HRM and the New Industrial Relations The Role of the State Trade Union Law Industrial Relations and Economic Performance Public Sector Unionism Union Recognition The New Unionism Japanization The contributors are: Ian Beardwell; David Guest and Kim Hoque; Ian Clark; Stephen Dunn and David Metcalf; Peter Nolan; Rachel Bailey; Tim Claydon; Ed Heery; and David Grant. The book will be vital reading for students, researchers and HR professionals wanting to get to grips with current changes in the workplace.


In recent years industrial relations in Britain has been at the centre of a series of competing prescriptions and analyses concerning its substance and its future. The legislative reforms of the 1980s have tied unions into a complex web of controls which impose heavy obligations and penalties on many forms of previously lawful action; the labour-market has undergone major restructuring as product markets have come under heavy international competition; management as a function has been afforded greater discretion at a time when managers as individuals have lost a great deal of their security and status; new manufacturing processes from economies such as Japan have combined with an emphasis on quality and the customer to impose new disciplines on work organization; the public sector has been exposed to the presumed benefits of competitive tendering and wholesale privatization.

Across a wide range of industrial relations activity there has been adaption and innovation as the prescriptions for change have flowed in. There can have been few decades in which so much has happened to, and in the name of, industrial relations reform in so active and fundamental a manner.

The questions which are posed by this agenda go to the heart of the collectivized employment relationship in Britain. The decline in union membership, the erosion of collectively determined pay, the growth of the nonunion organization, all attest to the shift in priorities in British industrial relations. Assumptions concerning the desire to act collectively on the part of employees are now actively questioned. The support of the State in sustaining a collective industrial relations process is now no longer automatically taken for granted, regardless of political party. In these circumstances, it seems appropriate to bring together a series of analyses which seek to explore these themes in a systematic and extended manner.

The contributions which follow exemplify the range of high quality industrial relations analysis which is being undertaken in British universities at the present time. Each of the contributors has written on a topic on which they have both an expertise and an argument to present; in this sense there is no single ideological or analytical stance that has bound the contributors. What does come through from the range of material presented here is the strength of the analysis being offered and a proper scepticism in dealing with the popular myths of contemporary industrial relations.

The book opens with a discussion by the Editor on the theme of the 'New Industrial Relations', in which the difficulties of establishing what is happening . . .

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