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The nature of some recent trade union modernisation policies in the UK

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This article draws on recent research to present findings concerning the nature of some recent trade union modernization policies in the UK. In response to decline, it can be seen that the unions have increasingly been encouraged to represent and service members more as individuals than as part of a collective. This appears to be consonant with the frequently expressed view that greater individualism, both in employment and in society more generally, has largely been responsible for recent union weaknesses, and that if they are to endure the unions should adapt to it. Using data generated from interviews with full-time officers from a number of unions and from a case study of Unison organization within a local authority, the paper identifies two crucial problems with such an approach. First, it is argued that the substantial difficulties that the unions have experienced recently have been caused by a process of decollectivization in employment relations, and not one of individualization. Second, an indication of the complexity of the relationship between individualism and collectivism within trade unionism is given, something that is entirely ignored by proponents of the thesis that unions should concentrate solely on appealing to individuals.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)495-514
Number of pages20
JournalBritish Journal of Industrial Relations
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 1997

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