Competition and the Retreat from Collective Bargaining

| Publication date: 1 Aug 2009 | Theme: Employment & Social policy | NIESR Author(s): Bryson, A; Forth, J | External Author(s): Brown, W. | JEL Classification: D40; J30; J50; L33

For most of the twentieth century, collective bargaining provided the terms on which labour was commonly employed in Britain. However, the quarter century since 1980 has seen the collapse of collectivism as the main way of regulating employment. Our argument is that the tacit settlement between organized labour and employers was undermined by increasing product market competition. The paper first provides an overview of the changing map of collective bargaining, focusing on the private sector. It then moves on to ask why the retreat took place, and to explore the part played by product market competition and, in particular, by the profitability of different industries. The paper concludes with an analysis of the consequences of privatisation.

Keyword tags: 
collective bargaining, trade unions, competition, privatisation
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