Edited by Adrian Wilkinson, Jimmy Donaghey, Tony Dundon and Richard B. Freeman
Chapter 19: Workplace partnership
This chapter explores one of the most topical debates concerning representative forms of voice of the last two decades: the notion of 'workplace partnership'. In simple terms, the notion of workplace partnership is concerned with developing collaborative relationships between employment relations actors, especially between trade unions and employers, as part of a quest for mutual gains outcomes (Kochan and Osterman, 1994). The surge of academic and policy interest in partnership can be related to earlier debates regarding employee representation, and in particular the potential benefits and costs of trade unions as a form of governance in organizations (Freeman and Medoff, 1984). While trade unions can be viewed as negative forces that distort labour market outcomes, they can also be viewed as institutions that can positively influence both productivity and equality outcomes in organizations (Freeman and Medoff, 1984). From this perspective, trade unions are about much more than determining economic (wage) outcomes; they are also concerned with organizational processes such as the expression of worker voice, and can potentially make positive contributions to organizations, as well as to the functioning of the broader economic and social system (Johnstone and Wilkinson, 2013). This chapter comprises four main sections. The first section explores the meaning of partnership, as the term has become contested and conceptually ambiguous, despite widespread usage internationally in both academic and policy circles.
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