Union membership confers no business benefits, says report

Recognising a trade union does not produce business benefits or change employee attitudes, new research by the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development suggests. Collective bargaining and joint consultation processes were found to have no influence on the attitude or performance of staff. The research, based on analysis of the Department of Trade and Industry’s’s […]

Recognising a trade union does not produce business benefits or change employee attitudes, new research by the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development suggests.

Collective bargaining and joint consultation processes were found to have no influence on the attitude or performance of staff.

The research, based on analysis of the Department of Trade and Industry’s’s 1998 Workplace Employee Relations Survey, reveals a connection between employee involvement and work performance but found that people management practices were the decisive factor, not union involvement.

It found no evidence that a trade union presence has `any distinctive impact beyond that of people management practices on their own’.

The findings cast doubt on the government’s assumption that promoting trade union recognition through legislation will create a greater sense of fairness and trust in the workplace.

The Statutory Trade Union Recognition law which grants recognition to unions where over half the workforce are members, or 40% vote in favour, came in to force on 6 June.

Mike Emmott, CIPD adviser on employee relations said individual relationships are a key factor in gaining employee commitment. `It is clear that across most of the private sector, management is now in control of employee relations rather than relying on trade unions to alert them to grievances,’ he said.

`Managers prefer to communicate with and consult employees directly and this report underlines that that is the right approach to take. But it also shows that employees report lower levels of consultation than managers, which suggests that many managers need to be more effective in this area in order to drive up performance.

`Increasingly employers now realise that they have to manage the “psychological contract” with their employees rather than “employee relations” per se. An absence of employee representation is not the problem. Rather it is the failure to adopt good people management practices that creates employment relations failures.’

He added that the findings back up previous studies which found that employers who adopt enlightened management practices experience higher productivity and better performance.

Researchers from Birkbeck College, London and Queen’s University, Belfast analysed the 1998 survey which covered 2,000 workplaces and more than 28,000 workers.

Dominique Hammond writes for Personnel Today

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