From education to employment

TUC points to research indicating unions are key to unlocking employee potential

Workplaces with a strong union presence have a higher labour productivity and “workplace financial performance”, according to a briefing released yesterday by the Trades Union Congress (TUC).

Citing evidence on the correlation between workplace performance and union membership, the most recent analysis used suggests that “high-involvement management [HIM] has a positive impact on labour productivity”, noting that “this effect is restricted to unionised workplaces”. [Alex Bryson]

Furthermore, Bryson’s study takes stock of earlier research conducted by David Metcalf (2003), which found that 95% of managers in workplaces with a recognised union and constructive employment relations “believed they had achieved an above average increase in productivity in the previous five years”.

Highlighting the relationship between training, development and union presence, the TUC briefing points to research conducted by the Labour Force Survey in the Autumn of 2003. This suggests that the presence of a union within the workforce resulted in a higher percentage of employees engaged in training to further their skills base; 39% of union members enrolled in the previous three months, compared with 26% of non-union employees.

The briefing states: “We also know that employees get more training when the issue is negotiated with employers by unions rather than employers simply consulting with unions about the organisation’s training strategy”, showing that in workplaces where training was negotiated, almost 40 per cent delivered an average of five or more training days a year per employee compared to just over 20 per cent of workplaces where training was only subject to consultation.

And in stark approval of the benefits provided by Union Learning Representatives (ULR), the briefing notes a significant study conducted by Hoque in 2006, which states: “ULR’s are playing a positive role in ensuring that employees that have suffered disadvantage in the past – in particular the unqualified and those at lower organisational hierarchical levels, as well as minority groups such as women, ethnic minorities, older workers, and part-time and temporary workers – now have access to training”.

In addition, the authors of that study argue that the “Government could build on its aims of securing equality of training provision by providing stronger statutory rights for ULRs to enable them to be able to carry out their role more effectively”.

The briefing concludes: “Many of these research studies demonstrate the positive links between high performance workplaces, union recognition, the negotiation of training and also the activities of Union Learning Reps”.

“The TUC is therefore strongly recommending to Government that it should implement policy reforms that would embed this kind of model in many more workplaces than at present”.

Vijay Pattni.

Next week: the Centre for Excellence in Leadership write exclusively for FE News

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