A Research Companion
Edited by Mustafa F. Özbiligin
20. Trade union perspectives on diversity management Anne-marie Greene and Gill Kirton INTRODUCTION In the UK, the traditional ‘equal opportunities’ (EO) agenda has been eclipsed by the concept and language of diversity management (DM). While EO has at its centre the social justice case for equality, primarily based on gender and race (but also on disability, sexual orientation and age), at the centre of DM is the business case. The claim of DM is that organizations can derive economic gains from a diverse (in the broadest possible sense) workforce. While critical literature on how UK organizations understand and operationalize the concept of diversity is now beginning to emerge (Maxwell 2004; Foster and Harris 2005), there has been very little discussion about how trade unions have responded to the spread of the diversity approach. We have aimed to open up this area of enquiry, arguing that it is important, particularly in the UK context, where there is still a significant level of unionization especially in the public sector, to consider what the shift from EO to DM means for trade unions (Greene et al. 2005; Kirton and Greene 2006). THE ROLE OF TRADE UNIONS IN ADVANCING THE EQUALITY AGENDA First, it is necessary to step back and to consider the role that trade unions have traditionally played in promoting and advancing equality in UK workplaces. It is well established that employers do not always take voluntary action to improve their policies and practices and that ‘bottom-up’ pressure from non-management employees for...
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