Article 19 of 20 – “The evolution of employers’ organisations in the United Kingdom: Extending countervailing power”

Loved this! Gave me useful insights on the nature of EOs (employers’ organisations), their history, their struggles, their tussles and enough for me to properly start to think about being able to see the world through their eyes…

Gooberman, L., Hauptmeier, M., & Heery, E. (2018). The evolution of employers’ organisations in the United Kingdom: Extending countervailing power. Human Resource Management Journal. doi:10.1111/1748-8583.12193 

They’re makin’ contributions…

“This article makes two contributions to the literature. First, studies of changing ER in the UK (e.g., Brown, Bryson, & Forth, 2009) tend to subsume the study of EOs within that of unions and collective bargaining. This article is the first empirical study that longitudinally traces EOs’ activities and organisational forms. Second, our extension of countervailing power highlights how societal and regulatory pressures have changed over time, as has the need and impetus for employer organisation.” (Gooberman et al. 2018:2)

They are not messing about methodologically

“We examine the evolution of EOs in the UK across two periods, from 1964 to 1979 during the heyday of corporatism and from 1979 to 2016 when collective regulation declined and the salience of individual rights increased. We use empirical data to map the forms and activities of EOs as well as the actors that influenced them: unions, CSOs, and state (see Table 1 for an overview of UK governments over time) …. “used a range of qualitative and quantitative data as well as previous literature to assemble our account, triangulate our findings, and outline the contemporary incidence of employer collective action in the UK. First, we consulted EO websites in 2014–2015 to populate a database comprising all UK EOs, with more than 60 data points for each EO across categories comprising general information; governance; activities and services; and relationships to government and other organisations. By broadening the definition of employer collective organisations beyond only those organisations that bargain collectively, our database captures membership‐based EOs active across work, ER, and HRM. We identified 447 EOs pursuing a wide range of activities such as collective bargaining, training, advice on HRM practices, support for selection and recruitment, arbitration, legal advice on employment and labour matters, representation in employment tribunals, and political representation. “(Gooberman et al. 2018:4) Second, we conducted 98 semistructured interviews between 2013 and 2017 with representatives from EOs (63), unions (13), government (5), CSOs (6), member firms (5), and six experts with knowledge of EOs (e.g., represen_tatives of the Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service [Acas]). Interviews were carried out with representatives from across the range of UK EOs, including regional EOs, general national EOs, sectoral‐national EOs, and EOs focussed on an issue‐specific policy agenda. In the first stage, we used snowball sampling, whereby initial interviewees suggested subsequent interviewees. Many interviewees had significant historical knowledge gained over long careers, and our questioning sought to draw out their experience. Third, further historical evidence was available from data deposited by governmental organisations at the National Archives.

And come up with some nifty findings.

“EOs faced a crisis. How could they remain relevant if their roles within bargaining and tripartite bodies were scaling down? The answer was diversification as EOs responded to new pressures from governments and social movements. EOs that survived were those that created or expanded HRM services and lobbying activities. As ER became “privatised” within firms (Gospel & Edwards, 2012), EO members sought support to manage workforces through the developing practice of HRM (McKinlay, 2011). EOs responded by offering private services such as legal support that minimised risks from individual contracts. Increased lobbying of government also offered renewal oppor_tunities, with a representative of the Manufacturers’ Organisation (EEF; interview, November 4, 2011) stating that it Decided to move into areas where it had dabbled before but never really got involved in, which is if you like lobbying representation […] So it started off with very much getting involved in representing the interests of manufacturers […] to government, initially starting quite narrowly looking at just employment issues. Broadening that out into what I suppose we would call employment‐related issues. Pensions, health and safety, education or training” (Gooberman et al. 2018:7)


“A key change in the form of EOs in this second period was the emergence of issue‐based employer bodies, EFs. These promoted good practice across CSR and equality amongst member businesses (Bowkett et al., 2017; Demougin et al., 2017). EFs promoted good practice in HRM to member companies and sought to upgrade issue‐based forms of management through education, training, consultancy, and advice. EFs first emerged in the mid‐1980s before growing in number and in influence and were notable for their almost complete detachment from the traditional system of union‐based ER”(Gooberman et al. 2018:11)

among lots of others…

This table is mint.


Gooberman, L., Hauptmeier, M., & Heery, E. (2017). A typology of contemporary employers’ organisations in the UK. Economic and Industrial Democracy,

Gooberman, L., Hauptmeier, M., & Heery, E. (2018a). Employer interest representation in the United Kingdom. Work, Employment and Society, 32(1), 114–132.

McKinlay, A. (2013). From organised to disorganised capital? British employer associations, 1897–2010. In G. Gall, & T. Dundon (Eds.), Global anti‐unionism: Nature, dynamics, trajectories and outcomes. London: Palgrave Macmillan.

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