Centre for Employment Studies Research (CESR)

CESR Review: November 2008

November 2008

Articles by CESR members:
There may be trouble ahead. Public policy and the revision of the acas code of practice on discipline, 1977-2008 Anthony Fenley, CESR

Article: Students of organisational studies have identified written policy statements as examples of cultural artefacts, which provide an insight into the underlying values and beliefs at work within organisations (Senior and Fleming 2006). This short article examines the mutations of the ACAS Code of Practice on Discipline, since its first inception in 1977 to the current draft Code in 2008. The purpose of this exercise is to identify shifting beliefs held by public policymakers, and the State, about how a key element of the employment relationship should be managed, and how governments seek to shape the power relationship between employer and employee (or worker), and trade unions. Particular attention will be paid to the emphasis on supporting free markets, individualisation of the employment relationship, and increased juridification.

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People Management and Performance, Susan Hutchinson, CESR

Article: Do Human Resource (HR) policies and practices actually work? Do they lead to better performance for organizations who implement them? Questions like these have dominated both academic and practioner debates in the field of HR management over the last twenty years, and given rise to a plethora of research which has almost raised as many questions as it has answered.

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Work, hierarchy and the social imaginary in dreams of escape and recognition, Stella Maile, CESR

Article: My research on the British honours System (Maile forthcoming 2009) makes extensive use of narrative methods. The advantages of these methods are not only that they allow us to tease out the ‘stories within the story’ as it were, they also allow us to get at what Castoriadis (l995) has referred to as the ‘social imaginary’, the creative parts of the psyche that dream of alternatives and which may adapt to as well as modify symbols, structures and discourses. This short article deploys this approach in the context of narratives of employment and hierarchies of workplaces. Such narratives often occur through free association (Hollway and Jefferson 2000) as a response to invitations to interviewees to ‘tell me about your life’. In the telling of their lives, interviewees may refer to places and times of birth, families of origin; they may focus on the experience of schooling, or more often than not, stories of employment. Workplace hierarchies as these impinge upon issues of recognition for certain types of work and not others, for example, resonate with an institution that, in the awarding of honours, symbolises and endorses particular hierarchies.

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Is there a future for community-based trades unionism in Britain? Andrew Mathers and Graham Taylor, CESR

Article: Academics have made a significant contribution to the debate over how to revitalise trade unionism in the UK and beyond. This paper seeks to add to this debate by addressing the local dimension to revitalisation and, in particular, by exploring whether established institutions such as Trades Union Councils might be an effective vehicle for advancing a strategy of ‘community unionism’. Trades Union Councils (formerly Trades Councils) are representative structures at the local level and are comprised of delegates from union branches who meet on a monthly basis to discuss matters of common concern to trade unionists. Trades Union Councils are also affiliated to the national Trade Union Congress (TUC) and to its regional councils thereby making them an established part of the institutional structure of trade unionism. Some Trades Union Councils are extremely active: Battersea and Wandsworth in particular has been highly successful in raising the funds required for employing organisers and campaigning effectively around local political issues. Such developments suggest that Trades Union Councils may be in the process of regeneration thereby becoming effective vehicles for trade union renewal.

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Under-funded, Overstretched and Overwhelmed: the Experience of Citizens Advice Bureaux and Law Centre Advisers in Supporting Vulnerable Workers, Anna Pollert, CESR

Article: In the context of wider government policies regarding ‘vulnerable’ employment, this article examines Citizens Advice Bureaux (CAB) and Law Centre advisers’ experience of supporting workers with workplace problems . It shows a crisis in resourcing in the face of growing demand for help in Britain’s predominantly non-unionised workforce.

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Invited articles:
The Individual’s Right to Choose – A New Direction for Collective Agreements in Denmark? Steen Scheuer, Professor, DSc, University of Southern Denmark, Department of Leadership and Strategy

Article: This paper will describe and discuss recent trends in collective agreements in Denmark, against the background of declining union density and declining collective bargaining coverage (albeit still at quite high levels). One important innovation has been the introduction, in 1998, of one extra day’s holiday (extended to five in 2000) which were non-mandatory, i.e. they could be changed to pay, depending on the individual employee’s choice. Among trade unionists, such individualization is often a dirty word, which is why the issue of free choice in collective agreements has been – and still is – quite controversial. Can collective goods be delivered in the form of individual choice? And if members choose individually, will they be able to stand united against the employer, when necessary? Such questions are a part of the arsenal of traditional unionism. Thus, this kind of innovation has been highly controversial in the union movement, but in 2007, the bargaining parties in manufacturing decided to take something of a leap ahead with respect to opportunities of individual choice by employees.

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The credit crunch and jobs in South West England, union organising and greening the workplace. An interview with Nigel Costley, South West TUC Regional Secretary by Stephanie Tailby, CESR

Interview: We have been primed for some time to expect harder economic times; the eclipse of the NICE decade of non-inflationary consistent expansion. It was the British government’s bail out of the banks at the beginning of October – on the tail of similar, exceptional state intervention in free enterprise America – however, that made frighteningly obvious the dimensions of the bust into which the credit-led boom had translated. I interviewed Nigel Costley for the CESR Review just before the government’s initiative to re-capitalise the banks was announced. As readers will recall, it was not until the end of October that the Bank of England published GDP figures that confirmed the downturn taking place in the British economy. Nigel was in no doubt, however, when I asked about the key current challenges for trade unions in the South West region, that it was the ‘credit crunch’ and its impact on the ‘real economy’ that headed the list.

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Links to a selection of journals and websites for employment studies research can be accessed from here


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CESR Links:


Bristol Business School
University of the West of England
Frenchay Campus
Coldharbour Lane
BS16 1QY
Tel +44 (0) 117 328 3435

Email: stella.warren@uwe.ac.uk

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