What are the consequences of a managerial approach to union renewal for union behaviour? A case study of USDAW

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Evans, S.J. ; Pyman, Amanda ; Byford, Iona (2017)

Purpose – This paper explores the consequences of a managerialist approach to renewal for a union’s behaviour by analysing the UK’s fourth largest trade union - The Union of Shop, Distributive and Allied Workers (USDAW). \ud Design/methodology/approach – The findings draw on in-depth semi-structured interviews with union officials. \ud Findings –The research findings show the significance of a managerialist approach to UDSAW’s renewal strategy and its correlation with existing renewal strategies of organising and partnership. However, this was not immune to context with tensions between agency and articulation challenging the basic concept of managerialism and influencing union behaviour. \ud Research limitations/implications – The data were collected from a single case with a small sample size.\ud Practical implications – Unions could benefit from a managerialist approach to insure against external challenges, but tensions between democracy and efficiency will mediate any such approach to union renewal.\ud Originality/value – This paper brings together the current disparate themes in the literature to propose a conceptual framework of three key elements of managerialism: leadership or centralised renewal strategies; performance management techniques; and the managerialisation of union roles. To date, these elements of managerialism have not been studied simultaneously in a research project and without such knowledge, we lack a comprehensive understanding of the true complexities of how unions organise and renew, both conceptually and empirically. Consequently, we argue that theories of union renewal need to better reflect the complexities of a hybrid approach that unions, such as USDAW, are adopting, particularly their achievements of internal leveraging. \ud Paper type - Research paper
  • References (2)

    Turnbull, P. (1988) Journal of Industrial Relations, 26(1): 99 118.

    USDAW (2016) http://www.usdaw.org.uk/

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