Chapter

The Surprising Retreat of Union Britain

Edited by John Pencavel

in Seeking a Premier Economy

Published by University of Chicago Press

Published in print July 2004 | ISBN: 9780226092843
Published online February 2013 | e-ISBN: 9780226092904 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.7208/chicago/9780226092904.003.0006
The Surprising Retreat of Union Britain

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Labor unions are an important component of a society's network of institutions that give individuals an opportunity to shape their environments and to promote mutual assistance. Collective bargaining can be a constructive force at the workplace to resolve problems that arise from the necessary incompleteness of labor contracts. An assessment of unionism in a society may be organized around three classes of questions: Do unions produce a better distribution of income in society? Do unions contribute to a more efficient society? And do unions enhance a society's “social capital”? This chapter examines the retreat of unionism in the United Kingdom, as illustrated by the drop in the fraction of workers who are union members. It describes the state of unionism in the 1960s and 1970s, arguing that, unlike in most other countries, British unionism was nurtured less by explicit statutory support and more by various indirect mechanisms. The chapter also discusses the impact of the change in economic policy on unionism, along with the government's posture toward labor strikes and the impact of unionism on labor productivity.

Keywords: labor unions; United Kingdom; unionism; collective bargaining; labor strikes; labor productivity; economic policy; social capital

Chapter.  22761 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: International Economics

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