Trade unions in the modern labour market
The IPPR Commission on Economic Justice is seeking evidence for a project on trade unions in the modern labour market. This project will produce a policy report to stimulate wider debate on the topic and will contribute to the Commission’s final report.
The Commission is seeking to understand the causes of the significant decline in union membership and collective bargaining since 1979, and the impact this decline has had on the UK economy and labour market. We will seek out best practice in the movement, and highlight where trade unions have innovated to adapt to a changing labour market. The project will set out what role trade unions could play in the labour market in the future, and outline changes that may be necessary to support this.
Key questions and areas of interest include:
- The decline of union membership and collective bargaining
- Why has union membership and collective bargaining declined in the UK? What extent can the decline be attributed to:
- Sectoral change in the economy and the decline of unionised industries
- Changing attitudes among workers of the benefits of joining a union
- Changing attitudes among employers of the benefits of working with trade unions
- Changes in public policy that have made it more difficult for unions to recruit and organise
- Other factors
- How does the UK compare to other advanced economies in terms of union rights and the role of trade unions in the economy, and which countries provide possible models on industrial relations?
- What has been the impact of declining union membership on the UK labour market and economy, on workers and on employers?
- The future of trade unions and collective bargaining
- Should Government be concerned about the decline of trade union membership and collective bargaining, and should they play a role in helping to reverse this?
- What – if any – changes to the law are necessary to ensure unions are able to recruit and organise?
- What role could trade unions play at a firm level, a sectoral level, and a national level in improving the functioning of the UK labour market?
- What role can trade unions play in supporting the Government’s policy objectives including on skills, industrial strategy and productivity?
- What role can trade unions play in an economy which is being transformed by advances in technology and automation?
- How can we support social partnership, with strong trade unions working productively with employers in the long-term interest of both workers and businesses?
- What are the best examples of innovation and best practice, where unions have maintained their presence in sectors, or organised workers in non-traditional sectors?
What could the union movement do to adapt to a changing labour market and reverse the decline in membership and collective bargaining?