The paper 'Decline in Trade Unions in the UK' is a good example of a Macro and Microeconomics Assignment. Various reasons are attributed to trade union membership decline. First is the composition of workforce and jobs whereby, if employment declines in traditional areas of high union membership, then total union membership declines (Gennard & Judge 2005, p. 159). For instance, according to Schifferes (2004), UK labor unions were traditionally strongest in the old manufacturing industries such as coal, steel, engineering, and docks. However, by the 1970s these industries were on the decline and the recession experienced in the 1980s speeded up their demise, meaning that with this, many trade unions collapsed. The second reason is the business cycle, where it is noted that union membership increases at times of low and/or failing unemployment.
The third is the role of the state as the government can influence membership directly through laws on recognition, and indirectly by creating the atmosphere in which issues that pertain to employees and the management are discussed. Another point is about the role of employers as it is argued that employers have become hostile to unions.
As well, many employees have become hesitant to join unions because of the reduction in the wage premium associated with joining unions. Last but not least, the role of unions themselves has been questioned since labor has moved from adversarial industrial relations towards greater collaboration between employers and employees in organizations (Gennard & Judge 2005, p. 159). Perspectives to explain the decline Unitary perspective Traditionally, employers have especially adopted a unitarist approach to the labor relationship (Bendix 2000, p. 20). Unitarian implies that the organization is a cohesive entity in which all should work together to achieve a common goal.
As such, there should be no real conflict of interest between employees and employers. Since it is perceived that there is no rift, there should be no power play between employers and employees. Consequently, trade unions are regarded as unnecessary. In fact, from this point of view, trade unions are often seen as troublemakers who cause gratuitous conflict between employers and their subjects (Bendix 2000, p. 20). Pluralist perspective Pluralism is premised on the conviction that democracy is best achieved by allowing free interaction between competing groups.
This view accepts the existence of conflict but assumes that if the groups involved in the conflict have more or less equal power, some form of compromise can be attained between them. The pluralist approach even accepts and encourages the formation of trade unions as competing groups to employers (Bendix 2000, p. 20). It is perhaps because of this point that Wachter (2007, p. 23) asserts that “ unions are central to a corporatist regime” , meaning that organizations that promote corporatism are likely to promote the formation of trade unions. Radical perspective The radical perspective is rooted in the Marxist ideology which views the working class as continually exploited by the capitalists who own the means of production (Bendix 2000, p.
20). From this standpoint, there can be no acceptable accommodation or conciliation between capital and labor. Accordingly, conflict is endemic within this system and is not resolved by negotiation between employers and unions. Therefore, for radicals, the role of trade unions is to challenge management power and to defend the interests of workers (Rowley & Jackson 2010, p.
Bendix, S 2000, The basics of labour relations, Juta and Company Ltd, New Delhi.
Blanchflower, D G & Bryson, A 2008, “Union decline in Britain”, Discussion Paper No. 3436, April 2008, viewed 24 February 2013,
Bryson, A & Forth, J 2010, “Trade Union Membership and Influence 1999-2009”, CEP Discussion Paper No 1003, September 2010, viewed 24 February 2013,
Gennard, J & Judge G 2005, Employee relations 4/E, 4th edn, CIPD Publishing, London.
Guest, D E 2005, “Human resource management, trade unions and industrial relations” in G Salaman, J Storey, & J Billsberry (eds), Strategic Human Resource Management: Theory and Practice, 2nd edn, Sage, London, chapter 11, pp. 237-250.
Needle, D 2004, Business in context: An introduction to business and its environment, 4th edn, Cengage Learning EMEA, New York.
Partridge, L 2009, “Was the decline of unions reflective of their inappropriateness in an increasingly unitarist environment? An examination using industrial relations models”, Otago Management Graduate Review, Volume 7, pp. 81-88, viewed 24 February 2013,
Rowley, C & Jackson, K 2010, Human resource management: The key concepts, Taylor & Francis, London.
Schifferes S 2004, “The trade unions’ long decline”, BBC News, Monday, 8 March, 2004
Sinha, P R N, Sinha, I B, & Shekhar, S P 2009, Industrial relations, trade unions and labour legislation, Pearson Education, New Delhi.
Smith S W 2003, Labour economics, 2nd edn, Routledge, London.
Wachter, M 2007, “The rise and decline of unions”, Regulation, Summer 2007, viewed 24 February 2013,