During the era of industrialization, working communities of employees lived in mining and industrial towns near their workplace, with trade unions being a critical part of employee lives and where “leisure, industrial relations, local Government and home town consciousness…
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ble in that trade unions and socialist parties became part of the new Labour party which pushed working class politics to national levels, with the trade union represented in the community through the political voice of the Labour Party (Savage and Miles 1987).
However, in recent decades there has been a move towards de-industrialisation, with workplaces being increasingly pressured by downsizing and outsourcing, global competition and resulting changes in management. As pointed by Turok (2000), Britain as a whole lost 32% of its manufacturing jobs between 1981 and 1996. Public sector organizations in particular demonstrate a strong union presence and have traditionally been known as employee champions. However in the modern day environment, as reduced resources and outsourcing have resulted from more market based arrangements, the responsibility for the welfare of employees has shifted from the HR department the trade unions depended upon, to line managers. (Whittaker and Marchington 2003). In a market based, individualized framework, the role of trade unions has been increasingly sidelined, as white collar workers proliferate in a digital environment.
Globalization and the age of the Internet has produced a surplus of white collar workers as opposed to the blue collar workers who were well represented by unions. Unions have played a significant role in the past through the organization of strikes to compel employers to provide better benefits and working conditions. Machin and Stewart (1984) undertook a study of performance measures of workers vis a vis financial performances during plant closures in 1984. Their findings showed that in the case of companies reporting a below average financial performance, closure of the plant due to strikes was likely to have occurred. Therefore a direct correlation may be said to have existed between employee productivity and union activity.
With de-industrialization, some firms have also moved towards the introduction of
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