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The Comparative Advantage of Non-Union Voice in Britain, 1980-2004

Authors/Editors: Bryson, A.
Gomez, R.
Kretschmer, T.
Willman, P.
Published: 2013
Type: Articles in Refereed Journals (International)
ISBN/ISSN: 0019-8676
Published by: Industrial Relations, 52(1), pp. 194-220


Non-union direct voice has replaced union representative voice as the primary avenue for employee voice in the British private sector. This paper explains this development by providing a framework for examining the relationship between employee voice and workplace outcomes. Voice is associated with lower voluntary turnover, especially in the case of union voice. However, union voice is also associated with greater workplace conflict. We argue changes in voice in Britain are not best understood using a simple union/non-union dichotomy. Union effects on workplace outcomes and the incidence of HRM hinge on whether it co-exists at the workplace with non-union voice in what we term a "dual" system. In the first part of the 21st Century these dual voice systems were performing at least as well as non-union only regimes, suggesting that the rise of non-union regimes is attributable to something other than clear comparative performance advantages over other forms of voice.

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