Social Capital and Union Revitalization: A Study of Worker Networks in the UK Audio-Visual Industries


  • Richard Saundry is at the Institute for Research into Organisations, Work and Employment, Lancashire Business School, University of Central Lancashire. Mark Stuart is at the Centre for Employment Relations, Innovation and Change, Leeds University Business School, University of Leeds. Valerie Antcliff is Visiting Fellow, School of Management, University of Liverpool.


This article examines Jarley's contention that trade union revitalization is conditional upon the generation of social capital through the systematic creation of networks. It draws on a qualitative study of freelance workers in the UK audio-visual industry to consider two propositions. The first, that ‘social capital within networks is forged on “bonds” that are conducive to trade union identity’ was not sustained by the data, which instead suggested that social capital is more likely to be generated by networks outside trade union structures. However, the data did support the second proposition that ‘trade unions can harness social capital in order to achieve concrete industrial relations outcomes’ by linking networks to reservoirs of expertise and influence.