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Tony Dobbins and Tony Dundon

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Tony Dobbins and Tony Dundon

Employer-sponsored non-union employee representation (NER) forums have attracted interest from human resources management practitioners, policy-makers and scholars, particularly in Anglo-Saxon liberal market contexts. NER bodies may take a wide variety of forms, constituting a potential alternative voice channel to trade unionism. Yet NER bodies remain relatively rare, perpetuating a significant representation and voice gap for most workers across the Anglo-Saxon world. Employers may have multiple reasons for introducing NER bodies: sometimes, but not always, to avoid unions. This depends on the contextual circumstances of different employers. NER bodies tend to lack independence and genuine power-sharing for mutual gains because they are management controlled. This is unlikely to change in the current political economy context, which provides limited scope for employee participation in workplace governance. Fresh thinking about alternative models of industrial democracy is required.

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Peter Prowse, Tony Dobbins and Ray Fells

While the concept of a Living Wage is not new, the modern Living Wage movement is viewed as having developed in America in the municipal government sector. In 1994, seeing full-time employees coming to their soup kitchens, Baltimoreans United in Leadership Development (a coalition of churches, trade unions and neighbourhood groups) started campaigning for a Living Wage (Luce, 2017). Their campaign spread and Lammam (2014) reported that more than 140 American municipalities have Living Wage laws. In contrast, the modern campaign for a Living Wage in the UK emerged in the commercial district of London’s Canary Wharf. The East London branch (TELCO) of the community organisation Citizens UK launched the campaign in 2001, staging protest actions which led to payment of the Living Wage at prominent city banks. The campaign became national and is coordinated by the Living Wage Foundation, established in 2011 by Citizens UK. As a direct result of these campaigns, wage increases have been secured in universities, banking and financial services, healthcare, cleaning, hospitality, catering and retail (Wills and Sims, 2004; Lopes and Hall, 2015).

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Niall Cullinane, Tony Dundon, Jimmy Donaghey, Eugene Hickland and Tony Dobbins

BritCo is a British-owned multinational corporation operating in more than 170 countries. It is a former utility which was privatised in the UK in the 1980s. Since the early 1990s, BritCo has expanded into international markets. In 1990 for example, BritCo entered the Republic of Ireland (RoI) market through a joint commercial venture with an Irish semi-state company. While it recognizes unions in its UK (including Northern Ireland) bases, in non-UK sites, including the RoI, it operates on a non-union basis. BritCo management claim they exhibit many elements of what is called diffused ‘best practice’ HRM across its sites with a leading hand from the corporate HQ. Diffused arrangements include selective hiring, semi autonomous teams, performance-related pay, culture management, harmonisation, and training opportunities.