chapter  1
18 Pages

Introduction

ByGregor Gall

There are two points of departure for this volume. The first is that since the late 1980s, various union leaders and commentators on union affairs, in response to declining union membership and union influence, have called on unions in Britain to revitalize themselves. A plethora of “r” words has emanated from these calls; in order to counter the “retreat,” “retrenchment,” and “ruin,” another set of “r” words – “renewal,” “reinvigoration,” “reconstitution,” “revival,” “relaunching,” and “reorganization” – were suggested and demanded. The response to these calls has been generally constructive, positive, and meaningful, albeit partial, slow, and uneven amongst unions in Britain. In the responses to decline, another “r” word has been central, that of recognition and specifically campaigns for union recognition. The extent to which unions are recognized by employers, for the purposes of representing their members and negotiating over their members’ terms and conditions of employment, has fallen markedly in recent years. If unions can significantly increase the number of workplaces where they have union recognition, the prospect exists not only that more workers can collectively determine the conditions they work under, thus heightening the degree of democracy in the workplace, but also that unions can again become important players in the employment relationship and society at large.