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Needing a new programme: why is union membership so low among software workers?

Hyman, J. and Lockyer, C.J. and Marks, A. and Scholarios, D.M. (2004) Needing a new programme: why is union membership so low among software workers? In: The Future of Worker Representation. Future of Work Series . Palgrave McMillan, pp. 37-61. ISBN 1-4039-1759-0

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Abstract

In terms of employee characteristics, software workers represent a particularly fascinating and important group of workers to explore in terms of their behaviour towards unions. They represent an expanding cohort of so-called knowledge workers in the UK and other countries, many possessing considerable latent power through their proximity to and involvement with electronic means of production and accumulation. An early study of technical workers' unionism by Smith (1987) provides evidence that computer personnel possess at least some of Batstone et al's (1978) four potential sources of industrial power, namely: skill scarcity, strategic position, immediate impact on production, and potential to create uncertainty (Smith 1987: 104). Other writers, however, have hinted that software workers are no less immune to management pressures to routinise and Taylorise their work than are any other group of skilled workers (Kraft and Dubnoff 1986; Beirne et al 1998). Software workers also enjoy familiarity with information technology, an increasingly effective tool in organising union membership both in the USA (Fiorito et al 2002) and the UK (Diamond and Freeman 2002).