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Employee representation and partnership in the non-union sector: a paradox of intention?


Professor Martin Upchurch, Middlesex University Business School, The Burroughs, London, NW4 4BT, UK. Email:


Non-union forms of employee representation have become increasingly prominent in UK workplaces in the last 15 years. In addition, partnership working has been encouraged by New Labour, the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development, the Confederation of British Industry and the TUC as a route to higher commitment and higher individual and organisational performance. These trends have been further encouraged by recent European Union legislation. This article seeks to examine the implied linkages between non-union employee representative mechanisms and partnership working and their influence on the effectiveness of employee voice as a conduit of high performance. The article is based on a case study organisation from within the UK finance sector, and data are drawn from semi-structured interviews with managers and staff and a survey of employee attitudes. The article concludes that employers’ attempts to utilise a non-union partnership framework for organisational gain are severely constrained by structural limitations on effective employee voice.

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