Voice in the Wilderness? The Shift From Union to Non‐Union Voice in Britain

Rafael Gomez, Alex Bryson and Paul Willman

in The Oxford Handbook of Participation in Organizations

Published in print February 2010 | ISBN: 9780199207268
Published online May 2010 | e-ISBN: 9780191584817 | DOI:

Series: Oxford Handbooks in Business and Management

Voice in the Wilderness? The Shift From Union to Non‐Union Voice in Britain

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  • Business Ethics
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This article deals with the emergence, presence, and gradual transformation of workplace voice in Britain. Britain is an interesting case because it has sustained one of the longest and most prolonged falls in union representation in the Western world. Some have interpreted this as a move away from institutionalized voice by both workers and employers in the face of global product market competition and attendant needs for greater labour flexibility. The article shows that union collective representation has been supplanted by non-union voice in new workplaces and, where union voice persists in older workplaces, it has been supplemented by non-union voice. The absence of formal voice in a significant minority of workplaces can be linked to certain observable firm characteristics, such as size, network externalities, ownership, and age of enterprise. The article defines workplace voice by partially drawing on insights from consumer theory, industrial organization, and transaction-cost economics.

Keywords: institutionalized voice; collective representation; non-union voice; union voice; transaction-cost economics

Article.  9702 words. 

Subjects: Business Ethics ; Public Management and Administration

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