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Journal Articles


Heery, E., Abbott, B. and Williams, S. ‘The involvement of civil society organizations in British industrial relations: extent, origins and significance’, British Journal of Industrial Relations (forthcoming)


This article examines the involvement of civil society organizations (CSOs) in UK industrial relations. Organizations of this type, including advocacy, campaigning, identity and community organizations have attracted increasing attention from employment relations scholars in recent years. The study reported in this article demonstrates that CSOs have become increasingly active in the sphere of work and employment, partly in response to trade union decline but also owing to political opportunities, afforded by the labour market policy of the New Labour government. It is claimed that CSOs operate at multiple levels of the industrial relations system and interact with the state, employers and trade unions. They generate significant effects within UK industrial relations and can rightly be judged significant ‘new actors’ on the UK employment scene.



Heery, E. and Simms, M. ‘Employer responses to union organising: patterns and effects’, Human Resource Management Journal, 20, 1: 3-22.


This article presents original research on employer responses to trade union organising campaigns in the United Kingdom. The evidence indicates that there is no single response, with employers in some cases seeking to block and in others support union activity. These different patterns are strongly path dependent and reflect the prior degree of exposure to trade unionism of workplaces targeted for organising. Another finding is that employer responses co-vary with union approaches to organising, such that when the employer adopts adversarial tactics so does the union. The militancy of both parties, it seems, is mutually reinforcing. Finally, the evidence points to substantial influence of employer responses over the outcomes of organising. When employers are supportive then campaigns tend to be more successful, measured on a range of criteria. When the employer is hostile unions find it difficult to make progress and encounter particular difficulties in securing recognition.

doi: 10.1111/j.1748-8583.2009.00102.x



Williams, S., Abbott, B. and Heery, E. ‘Mediating equality through civil society organizations’, Equality, Diversion and Inclusion: an International Journal, 29, 6: 627-638.


Studies of workplace equality have often questioned the effectiveness of employers’ efforts to tackle employment disadvantage. This article is concerned with the role that civil society organisations (CSOs) play in promoting equality at work. The main aims of this article are to: examine the role played by CSOs in promoting equality and challenging disadvantage at work through engaging with employers; characterise the ways in which they operate as mediating agents; and to reflect on the implications of CSO interventions for understanding how the process of mediating workplace equality operates.



Davies, S. (2010) ‘Fragmented Management, Hospital Contract Cleaning and Infection Control’. Policy & Politics. Vol. 38, No. 3, pp. 445-463


Hospital infection control has become a key issue in the UK health service. Much of the discussion has revolved around whether there is a connection between the quality of environmental cleanliness within hospitals and the incidence of healthcare associated infections (HCAIs). It has also raised questions about the impact of contract cleaning and of competitive tendering more generally. This article makes the case for a connection between contract cleaning, the standard of cleanliness and the incidence of HCAIs by focusing on the effect of the fragmentation of the ward team.




Heery, E. ‘Labor divided, labor defeated’, Work and Occupations, 36, 3: 247-256.


These two books deal, respectively, with the division of the American labor movement in 2005 and the dramatic strike of graduate teaching assistants at New York University in the same year. They are also representative of a larger class of writing on “union revitalization” that deals with the condition of the labor movement and its prospects for renewal. In this review article, the author uses the two books to reflect on the dominant themes of this broader literature. These include an emphasis on the deep hostility of neoliberalism to organized labor, the failure of the existing labor movement, and the need for a neosyndicalist strategy to achieve revitalization.



Heery, E. ‘Trade unions and contingent labour: scale and method’, Cambridge Journal of Regions, Economy and Society, 2, 3: 429-42


In recent years, there has been a trend for trade unions to attempt to represent contingent workers, including agency staff, workers on fixed-term contracts and the self-employed. This article seeks to explain and characterize this development in the UK. The main conclusions are that contingent workers require an ‘‘upscaling’’ of union representation, beyond the workplace, and that methods other than collective bargaining are more important for advancing the interests of this group. These methods include attempts to regulate labour markets unilaterally, provide union services and make use of employment law.




Heery, E. ‘Runt redux: the rise of human resource management as a field of study’, Work and Occupations, 35, 3: 351-357.


Over the past 20 years, human resource (HR) management has emerged as a major field of social science inquiry dealing with the employment relationship. In this review article, the author considers the nature of this significant field, arguing that it is marked by contention rather than a coherent program of work informed by shared theory and assumptions. Contention in HR management can be seen in divisions over the subject matter of the HR field, forms of explanation, normative positions, and understandings of the public role of HR scholars.



Heery, E. and Simms, M. (2008) ‘Constraints on union organizing in the United Kingdom’, Industrial Relations Journal, 39, 1: 24-42.


Despite increased investment by unions in organizing, across much of the developed world there is at best modest evidence of a recovery of union membership. This has led to a research interest in the barriers to successful union organizing and it is with this critical issue that the following article is concerned. It uses survey and interview data from trainee organizers in Britain to identify the internal and external constraints they have encountered while working on organizing campaigns. The findings point to a broad range of organizing constraints both within and beyond trade unions. Experience of constraints varies and is shown partly to be a function of the characteristics of organizers, the nature of the organizing task in which they are engaged and the systems in place to manage their work.



Stroud, D and Fairbrother, P. (2008) ‘The importance of workplace learning for trade unions: A study of the steel industry’, Studies in Continuing Education 30, 3, pp.231-246


This paper is concerned with the relationship between trade unions and learning in the workplace, particularly in relation to the enhancement of worker employability profiles. With the restructuring and modernising of the European steel industry as its context, this paper argues that the organisational and structural features of a sector have a profound influence on the way workplace learning is organised. Equally, trade union organisation and approaches also shape the learning agenda. In the steel industry, trade unions have failed to address the significance of workplace learning, partly because of the ways that they approach this topic. In the context of traditional sectors, with relatively vulnerable workforces, the weakened state of union bargaining positions means that they have limited capacity to address workforce employability or workplace participation. The outcome is that trade union involvement in skill formation and workplace learning is marginal.



Stroud, D and Fairbrother, P. (2008) ‘Training and Workforce Transformation in the European Steel Industry: Questions for Public Policy’, Policy Studies 29, 2, pp.145-161


The Lisbon process is aimed at laying the foundation for a dynamic, flexible and inclusive European Union (EU) economy. It is within this context, amid wider processes of restructuring and 'modernization', that traditional industries, such as steel, are engaged in transforming their skill base and creating a more diverse workforce. In this process, corporate management has a decisive role in reshaping the steel workforce, in the process exploiting the intersections between different aspects of policy. Our contention in this article is that EU policy prescriptions for transformation, aimed at fostering social cohesion and inclusion, are undone by corporate management strategies. In turn, national policy (on vocational education and training, for example) struggles to influence historically entrenched practices that operate at the sector level (such as on training and learning), which leaves some workers vulnerable to industry restructuring processes and at risk of social exclusion. Hence companies are able to restructure on their own terms, with workers' representatives seemingly unable to intervene in effective ways. The analysis that follows thus focuses on the tensions between national and supra-national policy making in the EU, and, within this context, sector policy and practice and the role of corporate management in shaping work and employment.



Stroud, D. and Fairbrother, P. (2008) Workplace Learning: A Trade Union Failure to Service NeedsJournal of Workplace Learning 20, 1, pp.6-20


Purpose – The purpose of this paper is to open up discussion about the relationship between trade unions and workplace learning. Design/methodology/approach – The paper is based on an analysis of a series of case-studies of restructuring in the European steel industry, incorporating interviews, observation and documentary analysis. Findings – The paper argues that trade unions often fail to address the significance of workplace learning for members, because they address workplace learning as a service. This approach fails to exploit opportunities and possibilities to extend workplace-learning provisions, and thereby meet the wider learning and employability enhancing needs of members. The outcome is that trade union involvement in skill formation and workplace learning is marginal, and contributes to the perpetuation of traditional sector practices and regressive learning provisions. Research limitations/implications – The paper focuses on a discussion of trade union involvement in workplace learning in the European steel industry. The implications for workplace learning practices more generally, are limited to industries where trade unions (and companies/industry) organise in relation to training and learning agendas in similar ways – and in relation to industries undergoing similar process of restructuring and “modernisation”. Practical implications – The paper provides a critique of trade union service approaches to learning agendas and highlights for policy-makers gaps in current learning provisions within industry. Originality/value – This paper makes an original contribution to debates concerned with trade union involvement and participation in workplace learning. It focuses on workplace inequities in training provision, and the implications for the future of unions and the employability prospects of workforces within the European steel industry.



Davies, S. (2008) ‘Union Learning Reps in a high tech industry’. Journal of Education and Work, Vol. 21, No 4, pp. 297–315.


This article examines moves towards the creation of a Union Learning Rep (ULR) network within Connect, the union for UK communications sector management and professional staff. Focusing on a large communications company (CommCo), the article argues that ULRs need not be limited to campaigning for basic skills training. They also have a role in a high tech industry with well-developed training programmes and a highly qualified workforce. As ‘learning signposts’ and advocates, ULRs can assist members in navigating the range of learning options presented by the employer, advise members on opportunities available outside the workplace, raise the profile of training and learning on the union’s bargaining agenda, develop new layers of activists and recruit new members.



Davies, S. (2008) ‘Contracting out Employment Services to the Third and Private Sectors: a Critique’, Critical Social Policy. Vol. 28, No.2, pp. 136-164.


As part of its welfare reform strategy, the government has made increasing use of the private and third sector in the provision of employment-related services. Ministers claim that this results in better service for users and better value for money for the taxpayer. This article examines these claims for third and private sector superiority in service provision and, using the government's own evaluative reports, challenges this view. The article contends that there is little evidence to support the government's case for the wholesale embrace of contracting out employment services. Based on reviewing experience of previous projects, it argues that given the same flexibilities and financing routinely offered to contractors, in-house provision would match or surpass contractor performance.


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