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Partnership at work

Hausarbeit (Hauptseminar) 2004 18 Seiten

Führung und Personal - Sonstiges


Table of contents

1. Introduction

2. Effects on individual employees
2.1. Advantages for individual employees
2.2. Disadvantages for individual employees

3. Effects on trade unions
3.1. Advantages for trade unions
3.2. Disadvantages for trade unions

4. Effects on employers
4.1. Advantages for employers
4.2. Disadvantages for employers

5. Partnership at work – prospects for success

6. Comparison to previous approaches to employee relations
6.1. A comparison to the pluralist approach between the Second World War and 1979
6.2. A comparison to the unitary approach during the Thatcher era

7. Conclusion - Final remark


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1. Introduction

Partnership at work has been stressed in the UK by the establishment of the TUC Partnership Institute in 2001. Furthermore the government provides support by the partnership at work fund. This work examines the chances of success of the partnership approach to employee relations by evaluating advantages and disadvantages to employees and employers and their representatives. Furthermore, a comparison to previous approaches to employee relations is carried out.

2. Effects on individual employees

2.1. Advantages for individual employees

It appears that partnership at work can improve employees’ personal development on the job. The belief in being on the same side in the company ( The Guardian 8 August 1998) can encourage employers to be more co-operative regarding information. And as understanding the business is important for employees managers can be animated to put more emphasis on training, education and communication ( Personnel Today 17 December 1998). Furthermore positive personal development improves employee’s employment security and employability (IDS 1998 p. 6).

A draft directive on information and consultation prepared by the EU underlines partnership at work by setting out minimum rights for employees. Employers must inform staff about development, the economic situation of the company and about consequential changes. (Firth 2002 p. 49-50)

According to the TUC’s Partnership Task Group partnership also contains employer’s openness to discuss issues, strategies and plans with the employees (Farnham 2000 p. 290). Thus partnership allows employees to possess a higher degree of participation in business decision making, e. g. bringing issues actively to the management.

2.2. Disadvantages for individual employees

The idea of partnership led to cynicism and suspicion among employees (IDS 1998 p. 4). Long-term pay deals are often integrated in partnership agreements. Further the discussion about pay is carried out in a consensual instead of an adversarial way e. g. at Tesco 1998 (IDS 1998 p. 8). Both circumstances may lead to rather moderate than expanded agreements concerning payment.

Another aspect associated with partnership is employees’ flexibility which is required. The case study of ScottishPower (IDS 1998 p. 19) demonstrates that employees are committed to fulfil tasks blow their individual level. Increasing flexibility can also imply that employees have to change the location of their job when it is necessary and work during uncomfortable hours.

3. Effects on trade unions

3.1. Advantages for trade unions

Since the Conservative government was elected in 1979 trade unions have lost a lot of their influence and members. Collective bargaining has stopped in many industries. Partnership permits unions to succeed in rebuilding their organisational basement (Farnham 1999 p. 291). Furthermore partnership can promote unions’ recognition (IDS 1998 p. 18) and unions being part of the solution of problems (IDS 1998 p. 2). Thus, a union is able redefine its role in the negotiating process in a rather consensual than adversarial way. And this enables them to win the employers’ endorsement in order to discuss issues in a more advantageous way. (Hollinshead et al. 2003 p. 118 – 119)

Partnership agreements with Tesco led to certain benefits for the USDAW. More members have been involved in decisions on different operational levels. Additionally the union has obtained a better view of how Tesco’s plans have implications on union members. Unions’ contribution to the management’s decisions and plans has also augmented (IDS 1998 p. 31).

3.2. Disadvantages for trade unions

When trade unions found social partnerships with companies and their executives they have to accept sacrifices. They give up the opportunity of opposing management decisions which have negative influences on their members (Hollinshead et al. 2003 p. 119)

Several unions were doubtful about the partnership approach. They feared that they were paying a too high price for recognition (IDS 2000 p. 1) and were seeing partnership as a jump ‘into bed with managers’ ( The Guardian 27 May 1999).

Moreover partnership bears the risk that membership is not perceived as essential by the members since employees and employers share the same objectives.

4. Effects on employers

4.1. Advantages for employers

As long-term pay deals often go with partnership agreements (IDS 1998 p. 8) employers enjoy the benefit of having stable labour costs over a long-term period. So companies have an improved security in planning and calculation. An IDS study (2002, p. 5) demonstrates that nowadays the majority of pay deals has a length of about only two years (Table 1). Non-adversarial bargaining makes modest pay deals more likely. Besides many strikes are results of weak communication between the social partners. Partnership improves communication between the two counterparts. In this way the threat of industrial action is strongly reduced.

Partnership requires employee commitment to recognize companies’ goals (IDS 1998 p. 1). Involving employees in managerial activity and showing communicative openness can advance employee’s motivation and individual performance. Thus, employers can augment company’s productivity (IDS 1998 p. 5) and increase profits.

In the ScottishPower case (IDS 1998 p. 19) employees were committed to more flexible working practices and to join training in order to improve their skills. Thus, employers have the advantage of a more applicable and better-trained workforce. And if companies occupy a flexible workforce they can respond faster and more sophisticated to customer’s needs and requirements (Hollinshead et al. p. 118). And meeting customer’s needs underlines the desired ‘focus on quality’ (Hollinshead 2003 p. 167)

4.2. Disadvantages for employers

According to BUIRA research most employers are still doubtful about partnership ( People Management 15 July 1999).

Employers are anxious about unions having too much influence on managerial decisions. Such decisions can be about employees own work until decisions about broader organisational policy issues (Hollinshead 2003 p. 167). If decisions have to be discussed and co-ordinated with employees and their representatives companies cannot react as fast as before. And companies who are unable to react to changing conditions in a rapidly changing industry environment will have problems to remain competitive.

In the ScottishPower Partnership Agreement (IDS 1998 p. 22) the company was obliged to share information about business plans, performance monitoring statistics etc. Executive managers of other companies might be sceptical about doing this because such details are often regarded as confidential.



ISBN (eBook)
ISBN (Buch)
889 KB
Institution / Hochschule
Anglia Ruskin University – Ashcroft International Business School
1,7 (A-)




Titel: Partnership at work