Tuesday, 05.07.16

The future of collective voice: what role for trade unions in the 21st century economy?

The Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung London (FES) in partnership with The New Economics Foundation (NEF) and Trade Union Congress (TUC) organised a discussion on the role of trade unions in fostering economic prosperity.

The event, which was held in the House of Commons, follows on from a research published by NEF and the University of Greenwich, centred on the economic role of trade unions and the positive effect of collective voice on wage growth, an important factor for domestic demand and therefore economic growth.

Ozlem Onaran presented some key findings from her comprehensive research. She provided empirical evidence that the relative decline in union density and collective bargaining coverage has driven the falling wage share, a structural disadvantage in a wage-driven economy like the UK. Moreover, the declining union presence has contributed to a lower national income growth overall and has coincided with a reduction in the quality of employment.

During the panel discussion, MPs from across the political spectrum stressed on the importance of unionisation, especially in the aftermath of the Brexit vote characterised by huge uncertainty about the future of jobs. TUC’s deputy general secretary Paul Nowak pointed out that it is necessary to reset the relationship between Westminster and trade unions as soon as possible.

The conversation with the audience demonstrated the need for a positive case about trade unions in Parliament and the requirement for the trade unions to revive their organising models in times of new modes of employment and the transformation of the workplace. 

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