There has been a sea-change in our employee relations … many unions are changing too. They are looking to form partnerships with employers to foster productivity and competitiveness. They are willing to engage with us because many of them have seen the sterility of old confrontational ways …

(Geoff Armstrong, Director General of the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD), cited in TUC 1998: 12)

These remarks seem to indicate that unions who adopt a traditional adversarial approach to industrial relations are not representing the best interests of their members. Advocates of social partnership claim that it would provide mutual benefits to the parties of such agreements: for workers, there would be greater employment security, involvement in workplace decisions and better working conditions. For trade unions, there would be greater influence over business decisions and for the employer there would be higher productivity (Guest and Peccei 1998; IPA 1997). These different outcomes are supposed to be linked through the partnership agreement in which the union exchanges acceptance of labour flexibilities for improvements in employment security, training, pay and working conditions as well as greater influence over workplace decisions. Thus in the context of declining union power, partnership has been defended by some advocates as a means of regaining power (Ackers and Payne 1998; Deery et al. 1999). One would expect that, by virtue of partnership, if unions can deliver better terms and conditions for workers, that would make it relatively easier for them to attract new members and organize existing ones. Better union organization is in turn likely to increase union power resources and to augment both direct worker influence over workplace decisions and indirect influence over policy decisions. The higher union profile and better workplace influence and employment conditions enjoyed by workers under partnership arrangements are likely to

improve their perceptions of union effectiveness as compared to workers in non-partnership organizations, especially where unions continue to have an adversarial approach to industrial relations.