Enlargement, Integration and Reform
Edited by Peter Leisink, Bram Stejin and Ulke Veersma
Chapter 12: Public Management Reform and Employee Voice in UK Public Services
Geoff White, Paul Dennison, David Farnham and Sylvia Horton INTRODUCTION The election of a Labour government in 1997, following an 18 year period of Conservative Party rule in the UK, promised a major change in governmental industrial relations policy. The new government’s election manifesto had indicated that there would be both new domestic legislation, in the form of a national minimum wage and rights to trade union recognition, and agreement to sign up to the European Union (EU) employment directives previously the subject of an ‘opt out’ clause for the UK in the Maastricht Treaty. A key aspect of this changed political terrain has been a commitment, at least in government rhetoric, to improving ‘employee voice’ in public-sector employment, partly as a means of facilitating continued public management reforms (Farnham, Hondeghem and Horton 2005a). The UK public sector consists of those government, or tax-funded, organizations providing public services to the population – largely through central government, the National Health Service (NHS) and local government authorities. In UK public services, the legal employers are state agencies, including the civil service, NHS trusts, local authorities and other public bodies such as the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC). Employees are public servants working in these agencies or other public bodies under contracts of employment. These contracts are rooted in common law, supported by the same employment protection legislation as for private-sector workers. It is senior managers who represent public employers in negotiating, consulting and communicating with their staff or their representatives in public-service organizations. Public...
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