October 20


12:00 pm - 01:00 pm

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Employee involvement underpins fair work. This seminar explores the importance of cultural traditions in supporting union membership

Trade union membership is regarded both as a route to and a key indicator of fair work. Union membership is associated with higher earnings and a variety of other benefits for employees. Furthermore, the negative effects of unions on the performance of businesses, once a common feature of empirical studies, also appears to have vanished. To the contrary, recent research demonstrates that unions support employee-driven innovation. Union membership therefore appears to be good for workers and employers and has been held up as an important instrument to achieving stronger and more inclusive economies.

Within all this, some rather fundamental questions about why people join trade unions appear to have been overlooked. In this seminar, Rhys Davies (Cardiff University) and Professor Alex Bryson (UCL) join chair Professor Alan Felstead to explore the importance of family, history and place in supporting favourable attitudes towards union membership. Firstly, data from the British Household Panel Survey is used to examine how union membership among parents influences the union joining behaviour of young workers. Secondly, data from the Labour Force Survey is used to demonstrate how villages and towns in the UK that are located in areas once dominated by coalmining remain among the strongest and most durable bases for the trade union movement. The results raise important questions regarding the revitalization of the labour movement and how cultural traditions are important to supporting the promotion of fair work.

About our speakers

Rhys Davies is Co-Director of the Wales Institute of Economic and Social Research, Data and Methods (WISERD), Wales’s national social science research institute hosted at the universities of Aberystwyth, Bangor, Cardiff, South Wales and Swansea. Based at Cardiff University, Rhys promotes and supports the activities of the PrOPEL Hub in Wales.

Alex Bryson is a Professor of Quantitative Social Science in UCL’s Social Research Institute. He is also a Research Fellow at the Institute of Labour Economics (IZA) and the National Institute of Economic and Social Research (NIESR) where he was previously Head of the Employment Group. His research focuses on labour economics, employment relations and programme evaluation.

Alan Felstead is a Research Professor at the School of Social Sciences, Cardiff University. He is also Visiting Professor at the ESRC Centre for Learning and Life Chances in Knowledge Economies and Societies (LLAKES), UCL Institute of Education, and a member of the ESRC Wales Institute of Social & Economic Research, Data & Methods (WISERD), Cardiff University.