As not only employer power but also its exercise in a unilateral manner have grown in Britain since the late 1970s, the independent and effective collective means for employees expressing and resolving collective grievances have declined. The starkest signs of this have been the falls in strike action, union membership and union recognition. In the 1980s, there were over 750 strikes per annum but since the early 1990s there have been less than 250 strikes per annum. Indeed, in 2009 and 2010 there were less than 100 strikes per annum and since 1989 less than 100 days were not worked per thousand workers as a result of strikes.1 Concomitantly, according to the Labour Force Survey, union membership has also declined markedly, being around 50% lower in 2010 than in 1979 and standing at 26% in 2010, with only a 14% density in the private sector. According to the Workplace Industrial Relations Survey/Workplace Employment Relations Survey (WIRS/WERS) surveys, in 1980, 64% of workplace establishments were covered by union recognition. By 2004, this had fallen to 27%. All three phenomena are indicative of a weakening of collective worker influence in the workplace. The emergence of European Works Councils, the Information and Consultation Regulations and the statutory union recognition procedure have arrived too late and their powers are too weak to alter the dimensions of decline of the independent and effective means of grievance articulation and resolution. Consequently, a‘representation gap’ for employee voice and mandate exists.
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