Voice at the workplace: where do we find it, why is it there, and where is it going?

| Publication date: 1 Aug 2009 | Theme: Employment & Social policy | NIESR Author(s): Bryson, A | External Author(s): Willman, P. and Gomez, R. | JEL Classification: J5, J51, J52, J53, L25, M54

Using nationally representative workplace data for Britain we show that over the last quarter century union voice Ð especially union-only voice Ð has been associated with poorer climate, more industrial action, poorer financial performance and poorer labour productivity than nonunion voice and, in particular, direct voice. On the other hand, union-based voice regimes have experienced lower quit rates than non-union and 'no voice' regimes, as theory predicts. Over that time, while the workplace incidence of voice has remained constant, with roughly 8 workplaces out of 10 providing some form of voice, there has been a big shift from union to non-union voice, particularly direct employer-made voice. Thus employers are prepared generally to bear the costs of voice provision and manifest a reluctance to engage with their workforce without voice mechanisms in place. The associations between non-union voice mechanisms and desirable workplace outcomes suggest that these costs may be lower than the benefits voice generates.

Keyword tags: 
worker voice, trade unions, quits, employment relations, labour productivity
Publication type: 

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