Reducing Inequalities in Europe
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Reducing Inequalities in Europe

How Industrial Relations and Labour Policies Can Close the Gap

Edited by Daniel Vaughan-Whitehead

International debate has recently focused on increased inequalities and the adverse effects they may have on both social and economic developments. Income inequality, now at its highest level for the past half-century, may not only undermine the sustainability of European social policy but also put at risk Europe’s sustainable recovery. A common feature of recent reports on inequality (ILO, OECD, IMF, 2015–17) is their recognition that the causes emerge from mechanisms in the world of work. The purpose of this book is to investigate the possible role of industrial relations, and labour policies more generally, in reducing these inequalities.
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Chapter 13: Inequality at work in the United Kingdom: How perforated industrial relations worsen inequalities and hold back progress on equalities

Damian Grimshaw and Mat Johnson


The world of work in the United Kingdom has for many years been characterised by major inequalities. Despite hosting some of the world’s highest executive salaries, basic employment and welfare standards tend to be relatively low. Moreover, a series of qualitative shifts in the labour market, in worker protections and in the nature of work have tended both to reproduce and to feed off workers’ unequal socio-economic position. A key causal factor is the ‘perforated’ industrial relations model caused by two generations of trade union decline. This has facilitated a specific mode of labour market flexibility, which is strongly biased towards employer short-term interests and militates against both longer-term employer security needs (for example, to underpin skill investment) and the kinds of flexibilities that might meet worker needs (for example, flexible careers and working time). This chapter investigates the relationship between inequalities and industrial relations and explores positive and negative outcomes via two case studies.

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