single-union agreement

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A form of trade union recognition pioneered in the UK by the electricians' union EETPU (now part of Unite) during the 1980s. Single-union agreements are also known as ‘new style’ and ‘strike-free’ agreements and involve the granting of recognition to a single trade union in return for guarantees on the avoidance of conflict and the promotion of cooperation between management and employees within the workplace. These agreements typically comprise a package of measures including, on the one hand, employer support for the union and the granting of facilities to its representatives and commitments to training, involvement, and single status for employees. On the other, it can embrace union acceptance of flexible working, binding arbitration to resolve industrial disputes, and representation through a company council, which might include non-union representatives and have only an advisory or consultative role. Single-union agreements were seen by some as a basis for reconstructing British industrial relations on a more cooperative basis, and recently concluded labour-management partnerships embrace many of their elements. They led to controversy in the trade union movement, however, largely because unions bid for agreements from employers through competitive ‘ beauty contests’ and because, in a number of cases, agreements resulted in the derecognition of rival unions. This controversy led to the expulsion of the electricians' union from the TUC in the late 1980s. Single-union agreements have not spread widely and are primarily a feature of greenfield manufacturing sites developed by inward investors. Notable examples exist at Nissan, Toshiba, Sony, Panasonic, and Pirelli General in south Wales. There is evidence in some of these companies of low union membership, which suggests a problem of perceived union ineffectiveness where this form of recognition is adopted. [See no-strike clause and pendulum arbitration.]

Subjects: Human Resource Management.

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