A representative organization of employees which is confined to a particular enterprise and which is established with employer approval or support. Staff associations are a common feature in financial services and a number of other industries and have usually been seen as a moderate alternative to representation through an ‘external’ trade union. Critics have claimed that many staff associations are not truly independent of employers and that they are used by the latter as a means of forestalling the unionization of the workforce. In contrast, proponents of staff associations claim that they are more attuned to the enterprise-specific needs of employees and that they reflect the preference for cooperative industrial relations of white-collar and managerial employees. Although staff associations have a reputation for moderation, some have become increasingly militant and ‘unionate’ in recent years. This is particularly true of staff associations in banking and finance, where the restructuring of the industry has led to widespread job losses and the retreat by employers from a relatively paternalist management style. Reflecting this change, a number of staff associations in the UK have affiliated to the TUC, whilst others have merged with trade unions. [See company union and enterprise union.]
Subjects: Human Resource Management.