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Union leadership in UK social housing

David Preece (The Business School, University of Teesside, Middlesbrough, UK)
Carolyn Ward (The Business School, University of Teesside, Middlesbrough, UK)

Leadership & Organization Development Journal

ISSN: 0143-7739

Article publication date: 26 October 2012




The purpose of this paper is to examine the impact of the privatisation and restructuring of social housing provision upon union leadership in the sector. The paper explores how local union leaders have adapted to radical reforms in the nature and organization of social housing provision in the UK.


The paper draws upon empirical material collected by the authors from social housing associations, informed by the union leadership literature and Habermas’ concepts of “communicative action” and “colonization”, drawing in particular upon the recent work of Edwards.


There are indications of moves to a more formalised relationship between management and local union leaders/staff representatives, with management keen to promote more “openness, partnership and collaboration” in working with the union leaders and staff reps. There was some evidence of senior managers involving local union leaders at earlier stages of policy and procedural initiatives, and of senior managers being more explicitly incorporated in the management‐union leader nexus.

Research limitations/implications

Given the limited amount of research to date on union leadership in social housing organizations, and the exploratory nature and limited scope of this study (which, to the best of the authors’ knowledge, is the first to look at these matters), it follows that we still have limited knowledge of practice. Amongst other considerations, it is necessary to broaden the scope of future studies to take in a larger number of UK social housing providers, and to gather data from union/staff association members as well as managers and local union leaders.


The paper examines a matter which has been neglected by researchers to date, that is the changing nature and role of union leadership in social housing organizations, and it does this through an examination of the changing intra‐ organizational contexts within which this is taking place.



Preece, D. and Ward, C. (2012), "Union leadership in UK social housing", Leadership & Organization Development Journal, Vol. 33 No. 8, pp. 763-778.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2012, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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