Employee Relations in the Public Services: Themes and Issues

By Susan Corby; Geoff White | Go to book overview
10
Trade unions
The challenge of individualism? Hamish MathiesonandSusan Corby

Trade union organisation has always been influenced by the character of the employment relationship, the structure of industry and labour markets and the composition of the labour force.

(Winchester 1988: 493)

No consideration of public service trade unions can be isolated from the political, legal and economic context in which they operate. Nor can trade unions be divorced from their main function of negotiating pay. However, readers are referred to other chapters in this book, as the context is not rehearsed here. Instead, this chapter focuses on the public service unions themselves, essentially since 1979. After briefly looking at the background, it examines trends in union membership and density, then goes on to consider union behaviour in terms of structure, organisation and industrial action. The main points are that:
• Union membership in the public services is becoming an increasing proportion of all union membership.
• Public service union density has declined, albeit to a lesser extent than in the private sector.
• On the whole, single occupation unions have grown more than their multi-occupation counterparts.
• There has been a spate of union merger activity.
• Public service unions have become more political and more militant.
• There has been a noticeable move to managerial unionism, with a shift from an activist focus to a member focus.

Background

From the end of the First World War to 1979 public service unions essentially operated in an environment which assisted their growth and development. The government, as either direct or indirect employer, encouraged collective bargaining and joint consultation, for instance through so-called Whitley Committees. It also encouraged union membership. From 1979,

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Employee Relations in the Public Services: Themes and Issues
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents v
  • List of Figures and Tables vii
  • Part I - Introduction 1
  • 1 - From the New Right to New Labour 3
  • Part II - Context 27
  • 2 - The Economic and Financial Context 29
  • References 51
  • 3 - The Legal Context 53
  • Part III - Issues 71
  • 4 - The Remuneration of Public Servants 73
  • References 92
  • 5 - Equal Opportunities 95
  • 6 - Employment Flexibility 114
  • 7 - Tendering and Outsourcing 136
  • 8 - Quality Management 156
  • Part IV - Players 175
  • 9 - Personnel Managers 177
  • References 195
  • 10 - Trade Unions 199
  • References 221
  • Index 225
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