DP316 Ten Years of Mrs. T.

Author(s): Charles R Bean, James Symons
Publication Date: April 1989
Keyword(s): Collective Bargaining, Productivity, Unemployment, Unions, United Kingdom
JEL(s): 133, 824, 825, 831, 832
Programme Areas: International Macroeconomics, Applied Macroeconomics
Link to this Page: cepr.org/active/publications/discussion_papers/dp.php?dpno=316

We argue that the 1970s were characterized by attempts to maintain a cooperative, low unemployment equilibrium in the face of considerable union power, through use of incomes policies and neo-corporatist machinery. The 1980s saw a shift away from this, towards direct measures to limit union power. This, together with the adoption of tight macroeconomic policies, explains the initial rise in unemployment. The reduction in union power also helps to explain the acceleration in productivity growth. The craft nature of much of the British union movement has led to a multiplication of bargaining units wihin firms. Bargaining in isolation a union can perceive overmanning and other restrictive practices as being in its intrests, resulting in low wages and productivity. A fall in union power results in a reduction in these inefficiencies and leads not only to a rise in productivity but also in wages.