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Trade unions and the pension crisis: defending member interests in a neoliberal world

Jo Grady (School of Management, University of Leicester, Leicester, UK)

Employee Relations

ISSN: 0142-5455

Article publication date: 20 April 2013




The purpose of this paper is to draw upon empirical research in order to demonstrate the ways in which trade unions have responded to the so‐called current UK pension crisis.


The paper uses both theoretical approaches to neoliberalism, and empirical research in the form of interviews, to examine the contradictions between the rhetoric and reality of government policy towards, and trade union responses to, pension reform in the UK.


That trade unions have been constrained by: the fact that the labour party, which they support, has been in government but has increasingly become receptive to neoliberal economic policies; and by the broader discourse of pension reform, advanced by elites that are committed to neoliberal reforms to the British welfare state.

Research limitations/implications

The scope of the paper is large and thus certain issues regarding the pension crisis and ideology are not covered in as much detail as would be preferred.

Practical implications

The paper offers forward a unique critique regarding the current favoured pension policies and solutions.


This paper draws upon front‐line theoretical contributions and combines them with the author's interviews with leading trade union general secretaries. As such, it is a unique insight into not only the current so‐called “pensions crisis” but also the responses of trade unions, and the labour movement more broadly, to this constructed dilemma.



Grady, J. (2013), "Trade unions and the pension crisis: defending member interests in a neoliberal world", Employee Relations, Vol. 35 No. 3, pp. 294-308.



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Copyright © 2013, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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