British Journal of Industrial Relations

Published by Wiley
Online ISSN: 1467-8543
Print ISSN: 0007-1080
In order to understand the impact of the national minimum wage (NMW) on pay, employment and other variables, the Low Pay Commission studies pay setting, coverage of the NMW, competitive versus monopsonistic labour markets, non-compliance, offsets and the interaction between the NMW and the social security system. But similar issues were analysed a century ago by Fabian and other writers. In particular, the 18-page 1906 Tract by W. S. Sanders - the first ever call for a "national" minimum wage - anticipated all the present debates. That tract is examined here. Copyright (c) Blackwell Publishing Ltd/London School of Economics 2009.
The Trade Boards Act of 1909 was introduced in Britain to counteract sweating. Associated with long hours, insanitary work conditions and inadequate pay - with the accent falling on low wages - sweating probably afflicted some 30 per cent of Edwardian Britain's labour force. Trade boards supporters as diverse as Winston Churchill and R. H. Tawney heralded the legislation as marking a significant break in economic and social thought. Opponents declared that the enactment of the legislation would be ruinous for Britain. The future Labour Prime Minister, Ramsay MacDonald, and his wife denounced trade boards as pallid reformism and campaigned for the licensing of home workshops. On the other hand, proponents of a subsistence minimum wage, such as Sidney and Beatrice Webb, were disappointed that the legislation did not go further. Initially, it encompassed less than a quarter of a million workers. The rates set were not based on the cost of living but on what the individual trade could bear. On their own, trade boards were insufficient to eradicate Britain's long and historical tradition of being a low-paying economy. Trade boards (and their successors, wages councils) were trapped in their collective laissez-faire origins. However, despite its sanctioning of a statutory national minimum wage in 1998, the British state is still far from being interventionist in the labour market. If Britain is to break with the past, she must also implement a comprehensive framework of minimum rights. Otherwise, the principle of collective laissez-faire will still remain triumphant over the Webbs' alternative conception of a comprehensive labour code. Copyright (c) Blackwell Publishing Ltd/London School of Economics 2009.
This article examines the effects of the 1909 Trade Boards Act on women's wage rates and income contributions to poor households. The Act established boards charged with setting minimum hourly wages in selected low-paid trades, and the majority of workers affected before the First World War were women. Many of the women whose wages were raised by the Act were the wives and daughters of low-skilled workers, while many others were sole earners who supported children or elderly parents. Our main finding is that the Trade Boards Act was effective in reducing household poverty rates among the women whose wages it would have increased. Copyright (c) Blackwell Publishing Ltd/London School of Economics 2009.
Occupational health and safety (OHS) representatives and committees are the principal form of employee participation mandated by legislation in Anglo-Saxon countries, and therefore have a strong base. However, their existence precedes legislation in some significant cases. This article undertakes a 70‐year historical analysis of the effectiveness and operations of one significant example of pre‐legislative OHS committees in an Australian steelworks. The study finds that effectiveness of the committees as a form of participation depended on a complex complementarity of variables, including relationship with unions, the nature of management commitment, the organizational industrial relations climate and the political and institutional macro environment, consistent with ‘favourable conjunctures’ theory.
Layard, Metcalf and Nickell have formed annual estimates of the union mark-up for unskilled males in the United Kingdom manufacturing sector over the period 1951-1983. We critically assess their estimates as an index of union power and propose a number of hypotheses that determine the union mark-up in both cyclical and secular contexts. We use their mark-up estimates to test these hypotheses. We find that the mark-up is anti-cyclical and is secularly influenced by the level of social security benefits. It tends to be higher under Conservative administrations and it varies directly with the density of union membership. It does not appear to depend on incomes policies.
Abstract With hindsight, the appointment of Richard Hyman to the Warwick Industrial Relations (IR) group marked a new direction for the academic field. The 1960s Oxford IR group had already begun to borrow from sociological research to better understand and reform the workplace. Alan Fox was emerging as a sociologist. However, it was only after Hugh Clegg had established the Warwick Industrial Relations Research Unit (IRRU) that workplace sociology became a fully indigenous part of British IR, illustrated by both Hyman's Marxist analysis and Eric Batstone's qualitative factory studies. This article charts the development of Oxford/Warwick social science through the shifting content of the three ‘System’ texts. IR pluralism proved unsuccessful as public policy reform, but Clegg's Warwick research programme fostered a theoretical and empirical engagement between pluralism and radical sociology that revitalized the field. Alongside Clegg's post-Donovan determination to study management, this new intellectual dynamic facilitated the 1980s emergence of a sceptical and empirical tradition of IR-shaped HRM in British business schools.
This paper investigates the relationship between the pay of young men relative to adult men and the size of the youth cohort. The evidence presented indicates that during the post-war period, relative hourly earnings and relative union negotiated wage rates were both negatively influenced by the size of the youth cohort. This fact indicates that the relative availability of young workers influences their rates of pay even if these are the outcome of union negotiations.
Corruption in the public sector erodes tax compliance and leads to higher tax evasion. Moreover, corrupt public officials abuse their public power to extort bribes from the private agents. In both types of interaction with the public sector, the private agents are bound to face uncertainty with respect to their disposable incomes. To analyse effects of this uncertainty, a stochastic dynamic growth model with the public sector is examined. It is shown that deterministic excessive red tape and corruption deteriorate the growth potential through income redistribution and public sector inefficiencies. Most importantly, it is demonstrated that the increase in corruption via higher uncertainty exerts adverse effects on capital accumulation, thus leading to lower growth rates.
Police pay and conditions in the UK are governed by a unique mechanism, the Police Negotiating Board. This paper reviews the circumstances in which it was set up and examines the outcomes, relative to other public service workers, over the first twenty years of its operation. Recent developments highlight the role of ministerial intervention and raise questions about the relationship between the PNB negotiating system and working practice at police force level. Copyright Blackwell Publishing Ltd/London School of Economics 2003.
The deregulation of the system of pay determination in Britain in 1979 was intended to give employers the freedom to determine wage increases without the restriction of pay norms or statutory limits. Yet thirteen years later, despite a rise in productivity, nominal wage growth and the growth of unit labour costs were still widely perceived as enduring economic problems. This paper addresses the influence of industrial relations institutions and labour market pressure upon wage increases between 1979 and 1994 using evidence from the CBI's Pay Databank. Despite the direction of government policy, the external institutional forces of the labour market, particularly the rate of inflation and comparability, appear to have exerted an enduring influence on pay determination.
We compare the relative labour market performance of immigrants in the USA and in Britain over the period 1980-2000, when the stocks of immigrants were rising in both countries alongside differential shifts in demand and changes to labour market institutions. We find that the average relative employment prospects of immigrants are generally better in the USA than in Britain, particularly for non-white immigrants, while the average relative wage prospects for immigrants are generally better in Britain, particularly for men. Over time, relative wage and employment prospects for immigrants to the USA appear to have deteriorated, particularly among women, in a way that is not as apparent in Britain. Copyright Blackwell Publishing Ltd/London School of Economics 2007.
In Australia, a large decline in union density has occurred since the mid-1970's. This paper examines the relation between the decline in union density and the dispersion of earnings in Australia between 1986 and 1994. Changes in union density are found to be associated with an increase in earnings dispersion for male employees over this period, but do not appear to be strongly related to changes in earnings dispersion for female employees. The main cause of changes in earnings dispersion for both male and female employees has been an increase in the dispersion of earnings of nonunion employees.
It is widely believed that recessions are periods of accelerated structural change, with major reorganizations or adjustments being made under intense pressure. These changes are made to ensure the survival of firms, exploit opportunities created by difficulties facing other firms, or take advantage of temporary falls in the opportunity cost of initiating and carrying out changes. This line of argument suggests that we should expect to see firms making major changes in their investments in human capital, and in their industrial relations practices. Our results are only partially consistent with this view. What seems to be clear from the data generated by our surveys is that firms are not reluctant to make changes in their bargaining strategies and industrial relations systems. This should be no surprise. Unlike investments in plant and equipment, these changes do not require much cash, and the opportunity cost of making them is much lower in recessions than in booms. However, the observed changes in union recognition have not occurred primarily in firms that were severely affected by the recession. Increases in pay decentralization and reorganization of work-force arrangements were no more likely to be initiated by distressed firms than by firms only moderately affected by the recession. It follows, then, that the retreat of UK unionism observed during the 1990–3 recession was, in the main, a continuation of existing secular trends. The mild acceleration in the pace of change revealed by our survey may be cyclical, but the trend is unlikely to be reversed as recovery gathers pace.
This paper assesses union effects on workplace closure in the private sector in Britain between 1990 and 1998 using panel data from the 1990-98 Workplace Employee Relations Survey. On average, unions raised the chances of workplace closure in Britain in the 1990s, in contrast to the 1980s. However, the size and statistical significance of union effects differ across dimensions of unionization and type of workplace. Furthermore, the results are sensitive to the definition of workplace closure. Copyright Blackwell Publishing Ltd/London School of Economics 2004.
This paper studies the effects of enterprise bargaining on the pay position of women and other target equity groups. Contrary to "a priori" expectations the paper shows a convergence in full-time and part-time gross gender pay gaps following the adoption of decentralized wage bargaining. Convergence in the latter reflects compositional (human capital) effects: the entry of less qualified and less experienced males into part-time employment. Overall the results show a deterioration in the pay position of men employed full-time relative to women and part-timers (men and women) brought about by slower wage growth amongst men in full-time employment. Copyright Blackwell Publishing Ltd/London School of Economics 2003.
This research note examines the frequency, nature and context of employers seeking legal injunctions in collective industrial disputes between 1995 and 2005. The number of actual and threatened applications continues to be relatively frequent compared with much of the period from 1980 to 1995, with employers overwhelmingly gaining successful outcomes. However, usage is increasingly concentrated in a small number of industrial sectors such as parts of the public sector and semi-state industries. Copyright Blackwell Publishing Ltd/London School of Economics 2006.
This article reports on the first large‐scale study of sexual harassment litigation in Britain based on analysis of official case records. Its aim is to identify key factors distinguishing successful and unsuccessful claims. Five themes drive the analysis: credibility and its construction, the various types of sexual harassment, power resources, the time period in which the case was heard, and the gender composition of the tribunal. Hypotheses are tested on a random sample of 183 cases heard between 1995 and 2005. Some important disconnections between workplace realities and the operation of the tribunal system were revealed. Credibility of claimants turns importantly on how they initially reacted to the harassment of which they later complained and on the number of complementary claims they bring. Workers in elementary occupations experience a lower success rate before tribunals. Power resources in the form of legal representation significantly affect case outcomes. Implications for claimants and their advocates are discussed.
Nominally, the wave of protests by undocumented immigrants that swept through France in the late 1990s successfully challenged the restrictive Pasqua immigration laws. However, despite appearances, the mass movement was at base a labour protest: undocumented workers demonstrated against immigration laws that undermined the way they navigated informal labour markets and, in particular, truncated their opportunities for skill development. Furthermore, it is proposed in this article that examining social movements for their labour content can reveal erosions of working conditions and worker power in informal sector employment. A case study of the Paris garment district is presented to demonstrate how the spread of 'hybrid-informality' made legal work permits a prerequisite for working informally and relegated undocumented immigrants to lower quality jobs outside the cluster. Copyright Blackwell Publishing Ltd/London School of Economics 2007.
Diverse theories have predicted a trend towards growing work pressure in advanced capitalist societies, while pointing to quite distinct causal factors. This paper seeks to assess these arguments using data from two surveys of employees in European Union member-states carried out in 1996 and in 2001. It finds there is no evidence of a trend towards higher work pressure over this period. There is, however, support for some of the main arguments about the types of factors that affect work pressure: for instance, skill, job control, new technology and current job security are clearly important. But the trends in job control and job security have not been those predicted, while changes in another major determinant - the length of working hours - have tended to reduce work pressure. There are substantial and relatively stable differences in work pressure between countries, but to a considerable extent, these reflect compositional differences with respect to the main determinants of work pressure. Copyright Blackwell Publishing Ltd/London School of Economics 2005.
This article examines the Company Law Review and other corporate governance reforms introduced by the Labour government since 1997. It argues that an opportunity has been missed to implement fundamental change by giving employees and other key stakeholders rights in companies equal to those of shareholders. However, reforms that aim to make the existing system work better by promoting responsible shareholder activity have been introduced, and proposals to increase company disclosure on employee and other stakeholder relationships are in the pipeline. The potential of the reforms to offer trade unions new tools for promoting workers' interests is examined. Copyright Blackwell Publishing Ltd/London School of Economics 2003.
We examine the determinants of establishment performance in the UK, using cross-sectional data from the 1998 Workplace Employee Relations Survey to replicate research by Fernie and Metcalf (1995) who used data from the 1990 Workplace Employee Relations Survey; specifically, we test whether employee representation, contingent pay and efforts to boost employee participation affect a set of economic and industrial relations outcome indicators in the manner they suggest. We also re-estimate the influential WERS90-based study of Machin and Stewart (1996) on the links between union status and financial performance. In both cases we report very different results. Copyright Blackwell Publishers Ltd/London School of Economics 2001.
We report how trade unions and employers initially reacted to the introduction of the statutory recognition procedure in the Employment Relations Act 1999 (ERA). Interview data indicate that the ERA and the drift of EU influence have acted to shift employer attitudes towards greater approval of unions and have accelerated the rate at which employers are redesigning their relationships with unions. Although they are restricting unions' influence over traditional issues such as pay-setting, employers are increasingly seeking their assistance in implementing organizational changes. We explore the impact of these developments on union activity and on collective representation more broadly. Copyright Blackwell Publishing Ltd/London School of Economics 2003..
During 2002 tension between trade unions and the Labour government reached a level not seen before in their relationship. This review examines the source of the tension and its manifestations. It shows that during the year a range of issues emerged that divided the government and unions. New Labour 'modernizers' cited these differences as reasons to further distance the Party from trade unions. The article argues that relations between trade unionism and the government are at low ebb, and that the extent of disagreement between the two is now more pronounced than at any other time since 1997. Copyright Blackwell Publishing Ltd/London School of Economics 2003..
This is an account of the 2002-2004 firefighters' dispute in the UK based on interviews with key figures, attendance at meetings and scrutiny of contemporary sources. Our emphasis is on the political nature of the dispute with the case made that senior members of the Labour government sought to ‘politicize’ the industrial action in order to undermine the credibility of the union leadership, win over public opinion and set down a marker for public sector unions. In particular the government aggressively pursued centralization; that is, national leaders took over the running of the dispute from the local authority employers in order to maintain central government control over the process of ‘modernization.’ Moreover, their various interventions confirm the Hay thesis that the Labour Party leadership now openly and uniformly seeks to defeat union industrial action.
Work-life balance policies aimed at reducing working hours are often assumed to be of particular interest to workers with family responsibilities such as young children. Although workers in Britain report the kind of time-stress envisaged by the debate over a 'long-hours culture', there is little relationship between workers' family situation and preferences for working fewer hours. Women workers' hours already reflect family commitments to some extent, while families with young children may need the income levels that only substantial working hours bring. Conversely workers without family commitments may have more capacity to swap income or career progression for increased leisure time. Copyright Blackwell Publishing Ltd/London School of Economics 2005.
Computers and ICT have changed the way we live and work. The latest Workplace Employment Relations Survey (WERS) 2004 provides a snapshot of how using ICT has revolutionized the workplace. Various studies have suggested that the use of a computer at work boosted earnings by as much as 20 per cent. Others suggest this reported impact is due to unobserved heterogeneity. Using excellent data from the WERS employer-employee matched sample, we compare ordinary least squares (OLS) estimates with those from alternative estimation methods and those which include controls for workplace and occupation interactions. We show that OLS estimates overstate the return to computer use but that including occupation and workplace controls, reduces the return to around 3 per cent. We explore the return on different IT skills and find a small return to the use of the 'office IT function' and the intensity of computer use as measured by the number of tasks a computer is used for. Copyright (c) Blackwell Publishing Ltd/London School of Economics 2008.
This paper outlines the development of a new data source that combines workplace information from the Workplace Employment Relations Survey (WERS) with employee data from the Annual Survey of Hours and Earnings (ASHE). Illustrative analysis of the gender wage differential demonstrates how the inclusion of additional workplace characteristics collected from WERS can be utilized to understand better-observed patterns in earnings within ASHE. Analysis reveals that monitoring gender equality at the workplace is not associated with a reduction in the gender wage gap. Matching WERS/ASHE provides the opportunity to investigate a wider range of workplace phenomena than would be possible based only upon the WERS Survey of Employees. Copyright (c) Blackwell Publishing Ltd/London School of Economics 2008.
In advanced democracies, unions influence industrial relations through collective action and law. They also maintain influence in politics through their alliances with labour parties. But the weakness of some labour movements, most apparent in falling membership, raises questions about their capacity to shape future industrial relations policy, reach voters and maintain their party alliances. Drawing on literature in industrial relations and political sociology, this article provides a framework for understanding how the Australian union movement successfully campaigned against the conservative Howard government's labour laws called WorkChoices. We characterize the union movement's campaign — Your Rights at Work — as a form of political organizing that responded to both shifting state strategy and the limits of traditional defences constituted by industrial action, legal protection and reliance on the Labor Party. Political mobilizations produce different kinds of impacts. Given that the campaign relied on a sophisticated electoral strategy, we analyse Australian Election Study (AES) 2007 data to assess its impact on voters and on activism. We find that the campaign increased the salience of industrial relations to voters, that union activism jumped in the lead‐up to the election, and that unionized voters voted against the government in record numbers. While this article primarily assesses electoral impact, we offer brief perspective on the movement's impact on policy and politics in the conclusion.
Before 1997, compulsory military service was a way for many young French men to obtain their driving licence for free. After the abolition of compulsory conscription in 1997, this sex-based discrimination disappeared. We use this shock in its two dimensions. First, it was a supply shock, since we show the abolition induced a decline in the fraction of men holding a driving licence, particularly for men living in urban areas. Because the causal relation between holding a driving licence and employment is hard to demonstrate, we use this policy change as an instrument for the former. Some elements of our analysis show that employment and having a driving licence are closely related. However, we cannot fully demonstrate that our results are due to the lack of a driving licence in itself rather than due to other consequences of the abolition of national service (e.g. professional courses or the associated loss of experience). Second, it was a demand shock, since these men were forced to turn to driving schools. Here, we are able to show that the abolition of national service had a direct and uncontroversial effect on the (heavily regulated) driving schools industry. The demand shock resulted in increased rents. These rents translated into an increase in the number of driving schools, stable total employment, a decrease in average employment, no increase of total sales or value-added, no obvious decrease in profits per school, but an increase in wages paid to the teachers in those cities that had many young men. Hence, those who benefited from increased demand have been the instructors, in limited supply, not the incumbent schools or the consumers. Copyright (c) Blackwell Publishing Ltd/London School of Economics 2010.
We investigate compensation management in in‐house and outsourced call centres with original establishment‐level data collected in Canada. Our analysis reveals that both customer service representatives (CSRs) and managers employed in outsourced call centres earn 91 per cent of the cash pay earned by their in‐house counterparts. Lower cash pay levels in outsourced call centres are related to higher CSR quit rates and absenteeism. Although CSR cash pay is associated with improved workforce performance, the disparity in cash pay between in‐house and outsourced call centres does not result in a significant difference in workforce performance.
Regulations in many US states prevent dental hygienists (DHs) from fulfilling their potential to improve oral healthcare. Wing "et al". found that stringent practice regulations lower DH wages and reduce access to care. We add licensure regulations to the analysis and estimate the simultaneous effect of licensure and practice restrictions on the DH labour market and access to care. The results are consistent with licensure restrictions reducing employment, practice restrictions reducing wages, and wage and employment rates jointly influencing the prevalence of dental office visits. These results suggest that in order to significantly improve access to oral healthcare, states need to consider how their entry and practice regulations interact to influence outcomes. Copyright (c) Blackwell Publishing Ltd/London School of Economics 2010.
The Workplace Employment Relations Survey 2004 provides data that, for the first time, measure the extent to which workforce representation is part and parcel of grievance and disciplinary processes in British workplaces. This article explores the impact of the introduction of the statutory right to accompaniment at grievance and disciplinary hearings on rates of disciplinary sanctions, dismissals and employment tribunal applications. It concludes that there is little evidence to suggest that either the right to accompaniment or the operation of formal grievance and disciplinary procedures moderates disciplinary outcomes. Instead, it argues that trade union and employee representatives may be influential in facilitating the resolution of workplace disputes. Copyright (c) Blackwell Publishing Ltd/London School of Economics 2009.
Books reviewed:The Oxford Handbook of Work & Organization edited by Stephen Ackroyd, Rosemary Batt, Paul Thompson and Pamela S. Tolbert. Oxford University Press, Oxford, 2005, xiii + 655 pp., ISBN 0 19 926992 0, £75.00.
Top-cited authors
David Guest
  • King's College London
Neil Conway
  • Royal Holloway, University of London
Bill Harley
  • University of Melbourne
Dora Scholarios
  • University of Strathclyde
Francis Green
  • University College London