Managing Change in an Era of Globalisation
Edited by Bernard Gazier and Frédéric Bruggeman
10. Trade unions – obstacles or facilitators? Sian Moore, Greg Thomson and Geof Luton INTRODUCTION The role trade unions play in organisational restructuring can be characterised as falling somewhere along a continuum, where at one end trade unions may be perceived as or may represent an obstacle to restructuring, and at the other end trade unions are an important and useful actor in the restructuring process. Yet in the context of increased capital mobility it has been suggested that trade unions are reactive rather than proactive and that their collective response is weak oﬀering little beyond negotiation of the terms of redundancy and retraining (Fairbrother, 2000). The case studies conducted as part of the Monitoring Innovative Restructuring in Europe (MIRE) project were selected to illustrate good practice and, by implication, trade unions tended to act constructively, although not uncritically. In this chapter we draw upon these case studies to understand whether and how trade unions can play a proactive and innovative role in restructuring processes, oﬀering some protection to their members’ jobs, working conditions and experience of work, and the preconditions for such a role. In the UK the role of unions in facilitating organisational change has been recognised (Oxenbridge and Brown, 2002). The employer lowers the costs of consultation with the workforce by entering into social dialogue with trade unions as the collective voice of the workers rather than having to establish a new mechanism for collective consultation or to communicate with workers directly and individually. In the...
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