Critically Evaluate the Case for Social Partnership Between Unions and Employers

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Critically evaluate the case for social partnership between unions and employers

The concept of social partnership originates from the Rhenish model of industrial relations. It has passed in to the British lexicon through the European Union. At a European level the social partners are trade unions and employers federations. However in the UK the employers peak federation the CBI has indicated that it is unwilling to fulfil such a role at a national level. Instead the Anglo-Saxon model of social partnership operates a company and workplace level.This essay will investigate the arguments for and against social partnership on the Anglo-Saxon model from the perspective of the employer and trade union. It will recognise that the criteria for judging the efficacy of social partnership differ between employers and unions. The case for social partnership from the employer perspective is ambiguous and will be contingent on management attitudes and business strategy. It will argue that while social partnership undoubtedly presents problems for trade unions it is by far the lesser of two evils when compared with individualised employee involvement and human resource management policies. Trade unions should promote partnership as an alternative ideology to capital driven unitarism.

If implemented in the context of collective bargaining mutual gains principals offer a model for company level social partnership. Proponents of the mutual gains enterprise are quite clear that it is not a universally applicable prescription. To be made to work it requires high levels of investment in human resources, employees cannot be treated as just another cost, to be trimmed where possible. However companies willing to pursue ‘mutual gains’ policies benefit from increased productivity and creativity, and consequently higher profitability. Companies that are trying to compete purely on the basis of lowest cost would not be able to implement the principles. Kochan and...
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