الرئيسية Journal of General Management Book Review: The Fifth Estate: Britain's Unions in the Modern WorldThe Fifth Estate: Britain's...
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The fifth Estate: Britain's Unions in the Modern World Robert laylor London, Pan Books, 1980 revised edition, pp. 478, £1.95. The Shrinking Perimeter: Unionism and Labor Relations in the Manufacturing Section Hervey A. Juris and Myron Roomkin (eds.) Farnborough, Lexington Books/Gower Press, 1980, pp. 223, £/3.50. Planning for the 1980s: Corporate Planning with Government and Unions Bernard laylor Brussels, European Cooperation Fund (51 Rue de la Concorde, Brussels 1050) pp. 53, 50 Belgian francs. Australian Industrial Relations .. Readings G. W. Ford, J. M. Hearn and R. D. Lansbury (eds.) Melbourne, MacMillan Company of Australia, 1980. 3rd edition, pp. 595, n.p. "Britain's trade unions are never short of critics", writes Robert Taylor (Labour Corres- pondent of "The Observer") in a new revised edition of his book "The Fifth Estate". The book crisply covers both a profile of the trade union movement, as well as all the (one might almost say 57) existing varieties of British unionism. Rather than the fashionable view that unions are too powerful, Taylor argues that they are not strong enough. Indeed, he believes their leaders are far too parochial in their outlook, and should take a more radical stand to achieve not only social justice but faster economic growth. Whether you agree or not with this thesis, the book is at least a masterpiece of compression. Trade unions are, no doubt, a product of their history. Taylor notes that "Nobody who ever visits the annual conference of a trade union and witnesses the archaic rituals and procedures can ignore the deep respect for past achievements, the sense of pride and respectability, which is handed down from one generation of union activists to the next" (p. 441). All institutions, alas, change reluctantly. The unions seem perhaps even more than other bodies to be unable to reform themselves, but there are a few straws in the wind. As Taylor observes "The age of the big union boss passing down orders from on high is; over and it is unlikely to return, thank goodness" (p. 456). But the "ad hockery" and muddle continue. Is a "Hobbesian scenario of sectionalist greed and strife" all we can look forward to? De-industrialisation is demoralising and embittering British industrial relations, even if there is a momentary calm. But our own experience of industrial decline is not unique. The membership of British trade unions is not yet falling (apart from one or two public sector organisations) even with over two million out of work, and off the pay-roll. But it may yet do so, as it did in the 1930s. With fast declining memberships, by contrast, American trade unions are on the run; they have a "shrinking perimeter", especially in manufacturing industry, according to the editors Hervey A. Juris and Myron Roomkin of a volume of conference proceedings of the same name. This is a valuable and scholarly book, but rather for Industrial Relations specialists. The contributions are of mixed quality, but those of Jack Barbash on "Unions 79 book reviews as Evolving Organisations" and George Strauss on "Quality of Worklife and Participation as Bargaining Issues", and Michael Piore on "Union Politics", stand out. The editors conclude that: "The 1980s, however, should differ from the 1950s and 1960s in the amount of conflict we are liable to see brought on by the anticipated realignments of power and organizational effectiveness". They end by blessing the collective-bargaining process, and expressing confidence in future viability, even with the hard times to come for manufacturing industry. A Corporate Planning role for trade unions? Bernard Taylor, in a recent report (prepared for the European Cooperation Fund), looks at planning as a political process, sectoral/ regional planning, employee participation in planning, and political planning. It may be argued that if workers are not involved in corporate decisions, they may produce their own Alternative Plans, which of course the other stakeholders may not view with any great appetite and therefore may not allow to be implemented. But only time will tell if such co-determination will find a receptive ear in British, let alone American business environments. Australian trade unions have long had a stormy ride and still keep the antipodean employers on their toes. A newly published book of readings in Australian industrial relations (edited by Bill Ford and colleagues) will mostly interest students of comparative Industrial Relations behaviour, but is nonetheless worth having in facuIty libraries for reference. Of all the books reviewed here, Robert Taylor's is clearly the best value for money, at just under two pounds in paperback. It is to be enthusiastically recommended for amongst other things, main-stream MBA and other courses. It should also interest the general manager and lay-reader. Less academic than Hugh Clegg's classic textbook, it is however richer in descriptive detail, extremely upto-date, if somewhat more polemic in its conclusions. But then, are not trade unions as a topic of discussion as controversial as ever! MALCOLM WARNER Errata Volume 6 Number 2 Winter 1980/81. We apologise for two typesetting errors which appeared in this issue. On the front cover, the names of the authors of the article entitled "Some Indirect Costs of Corporate Debt Financing" should read: Bernhard Schwab and Mark Thompson. On page 8, the title and authors should read: "The Evaluation of Organisation Change" by Colin Carnall and Bjorn Kolltveit. 80