The potential of labour-management partnership : a longitudinal case analysis

Johnstone, Stewart and Wilkinson, Adrian (2018) The potential of labour-management partnership : a longitudinal case analysis. British Journal of Management, 29 (3). pp. 554-570. ISSN 1045-3172

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    Issues of labour-management cooperation have long attracted the attention of management researchers, practitioners and policymakers. In Britain, the most recent wave of interest has been under the rubric of labour-management partnership, normally concerning the development of cooperative relations between unions and employers. A recurring theme is that cooperative relations can be difficult to develop and sustain, especially in liberal market economies. This paper advances the debate by examining the dynamics of labour-management partnership within the context of a British financial services organization over a 25-year period. Drawing upon empirical case study data collected between 1990 and 2014, we assess the dynamics of the relationship between a building society and the recognized staff union. We confirm the possibility of sustaining collaborative relationships associated with a mutual gains agenda within a liberal market economy as well as the fragility of such arrangements. While we acknowledge that sustaining cooperative regimes can be difficult, we also caution against the tendency towards institutional determinism and underplaying of agency in many of the partnership critiques. Given the lack of a credible alternative, we conclude that labour-management partnership remains an important public policy goal and should not be dismissed as a chimera.