The added value of trade unions - A review for the TUC of existing research

The aim of this report is to provide an overview of the current research evidence on the economic impact of workplace union representation. Our review focuses on quantitative studies that have been conducted on good quality, nationally-representative samples of British workplaces or employees, and we rely where possible on results from multivariate statistical analyses which control for observable differences between union and non-union workplaces or employees. We utilise evidence from qualitative case studies where this serves to fill in gaps in the quantitative literature.

The added value of trade unions - New analyses for the TUC of the Workplace Employment Relations Surveys 2004 and 2011

Background to the analysis

To inform debate over the 2016 Trade Union Act the TUC commissioned UCL/NIESR to undertake a three-pronged investigation on the nature of unions and their effects on employers and employees. This comprised:

  • a review of existing literature on union effects
  • new analyses of the Workplace Employment Relations Surveys (WERS)
  • a more detailed investigation of the links between unionisation and work/life balance.

This report focuses on the second element, namely the new analyses of WERS.

Not So Dissatisfied After All? The Impact of Union Coverage on Job Satisfaction

The links between unionisation and job satisfaction remain controversial. In keeping with the existing literature we find strong statistically significant negative correlations between unionisation and overall job satisfaction.

Employee Voice: A Transaction Costs Perspective

Whether it is better to adopt voice or exit depends on the  nature of the transaction for both parties. The strongest voice-sustaining equilibrium is where both parties see voice as preferable to exit. This is likely where both parties have substantial sunk costs. In other circumstances, there is no voice-sustaining equilibrium. We apply insights from transaction cost economics to voice and exit in the employment relationship.

Union Workplace Voice and Civic Engagement

This paper offers an explanation for the phenomenon of declining democratic engagement. The paper assumes that what happens at work is the primary driver of what occurs outside of the workplace. If workers are exposed to the formalities of collective bargaining and union representation they also perhaps increase their attachment to, and willingness to participate in, structures of democratic governance outside of the workplace.

Slip Sliding Away: Further Union Decline in Germany and Britain

This paper presents the first comparative analysis of the decline in collective bargaining in two European countries where that decline has been most pronounced. Using workplace-level data and a common model, we present decompositions of changes in collective bargaining and worker representation in the private sector in Germany and Britain over the period 1998-2004. In both countries within-effects dominate compositional changes as the source of the recent decline in unionism.