Enlargement, Integration and Reform
Edited by Peter Leisink, Bram Stejin and Ulke Veersma
Chapter 7: Testing Times: Remaking Employment Relations through ‘New’ Partnership in the UK
7. Testing Times: Remaking Employment Relations through ‘New’ Partnership in the UK1 Mark Stuart and Miguel Martínez Lucio INTRODUCTION Whether UK employment relations have been ‘remade’ in recent years through new forms of labour-management cooperation or partnership-based approaches to employment relations, has been the subject of significant academic debate (Stuart and Martinez Lucio 2005a). The partnership approach has occupied a central place in the UK Labour government’s approach to employment policy and the modernization of employment relations (Martinez Lucio and Stuart 2002a), and, until relatively recently, has been widely endorsed by the UK labour movement. In simple terms, it has a twofold appeal. First, that adversarial, zero-sum approaches to labouremployer relations are considered not to be conducive to either business performance or high trust employment relations, whilst cooperative labouremployer relations, in contrast, organized around more integrative rather distributive concerns, are more likely to generate high trust relations and ‘mutual gains’ (Kochan and Osterman 1994). Second, that against a backdrop of declining membership and influence, ‘partnership’ offers the only route for trade unions to increase their ‘institutional centrality’ in the workplace, and policymaking process more generally (Ackers and Payne 1998). Thus, partnership-based approaches to employment relations have been widely debated in the context of trade union renewal and revitalization, both in the UK and more broadly (Huzzard, Gregory and Scott 2004; Terry 2003). Against this backdrop, this chapter assesses the development and nature of new forms of partnership in the UK and the extent to which it represents a remodelling...
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