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Department of Management Conflict: Trends and Forms of Collective Action John Kelly, Birkbeck The Changing Face of Employment Relations Over the Last 50.

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Presentation on theme: "Department of Management Conflict: Trends and Forms of Collective Action John Kelly, Birkbeck The Changing Face of Employment Relations Over the Last 50."— Presentation transcript:

1 Department of Management Conflict: Trends and Forms of Collective Action John Kelly, Birkbeck The Changing Face of Employment Relations Over the Last 50 Years Manchester IRS, 21 Nov 2014

2 Traditional questions about strikes Trends over time: cycles and waves? quiescence? Strikes and non-strike sanctions: changing balance? Variation across countries: pattern stability? Links to VoC? Sectoral variation: tertiarization and feminization? Major causal factors? – labour and product market competition – institutional erosion – union density and organization – actor policies Reliability of strike statistics. 28/04/2015 2

3 Median WDL/1000 workers N=14 W Europe /04/2015 3

4 Non-strike actions GB (% workplaces, WERS) 28/04/2015 4

5 What we know of strike patterns Steep decline in strike days (Gall 2012; van der Velden 2007). But no evidence of corresponding rise in non-strike actions in GB, apart from strike ballots (Dix et al 2009; Godard 2011; ONS 2012). Cross-national convergence and country rankings fairly stable (Vandaele 2011). Manufacturing/services balance variable e.g. Germany vs UK (Vandaele 2011). Causal factors? Question marks about unemployment. Continuing doubts about labour statistics e.g. exclusions, large strikes, resource cutbacks (Gall 2012; Lyddon 2007). 28/04/2015 5

6 Shifting repertoires of contention? Decline of union density and organizational capacity = fewer resources for both strikes and traditional actions short of a strike e.g. overtime ban, work to rule. Reduced bargaining coverage = shrinking opportunity structures through which to pressure employers. But declining conflict at work does not entail decline in conflict about work. Are we seeing a shift to different forms of action? By different actors? And targeted at different adversaries? Sources: Gall & Hebdon (2008); Kelly (1998). 28/04/2015 6

7 Varieties of collective action Coalition building between unions and civil society organizations e.g. Living Wage campaigns (Holgate, Wills). Political lobbying of key decision makers e.g. anti-academy protests in education (Muna); anti-austerity protests in local government (Joyce). Online petitions and social media https://www.change.org/p/john-lewis-jlcustserv-pay-cleaners-the- living-wage https://www.change.org/p/john-lewis-jlcustserv-pay-cleaners-the- living-wage https://www.coworker.org/petitions/let-us-have-visible-tattoos Occupations of public spaces in austerity protests. General strikes and demonstrations (Hamann et al 2013). 28/04/2015 7

8 General strikes, W Europe, N=17 countries, 147 strikes, /04/2015 8

9 Research questions What forms of action are undertaken by which groups around which issues and against which adversaries? Do recent varieties of collective action represent a recession-induced shift in behaviour? Or a longer- term response to union decline and/or to neo- liberalism? What do we know about, and how do we explain, the outcomes of these, and traditional forms of collective action? 28/04/2015 9

10 Strikes: from DV to IV Strike as social pathology: hence studies of causes, incidence, variation and trends. Strike as collective action: what are the outcomes for the strikers and consequences for their adversaries? Outcomes: substantive; bargaining power; organizational capacity (Weil 1997). Substantive strike outcome data UK ceased in General strikes: concessions in 35% of 92 strikes BUT concession rate significantly lower since /04/

11 Strikes: from DV to IV Bargaining power: strike effects on subsequent negotiations. Capacity: membership, activists, structure. – PCS: regression analysis of strikes and membership shows significant +ve impact of strikes on membership. Net recruitment c28% higher in strike months compared to non-strike months BUT effect is weakening over time (Hodder et al 2014). 28/04/

12 Strike consequences What are the links between strike and protest waves and the restructuring of class representation in the political system? – Early and late 1970s strike waves UK: polarization of Labour and Conservative parties and Labour split. – Mid-late 2000s upsurge of general strikes in Italy and fragmentation and decline of the Left. – Late 2000s general strikes and protests in Greece: the collapse in vote share of PASOK and New Democracy and the rise of SYRIZA. 28/04/

13 Sources Strikes AU, DK, FIN, FR, GE, IRL, IT, NE, NO, POR, SP, SWE, SWITZ, UK Bird, D. (1991) International comparisons of labour disputes in 1989 and 1990, Employment Gazette, 99(12): , Table 1. Davies, J. (2001) International comparisons of labour disputes in 1999, Labour Market Trends, 109(4): , Table 1. Hale, D. (2008) International comparisons of labour disputes in 2006, Economic and Labour Market Review, 2(4): 32-39, Table 1. General strikes EU15 plus NO, SWITZ Hamann, Johnston, Kelly database. 28/04/


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