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Do union-management learning partnerships reduce workplace conflict?

Tony Bennett (Lancashire Business School, University of Central Lancashire, Preston, Lancashire, UK)

Employee Relations

ISSN: 0142-5455

Article publication date: 1 January 2014




The purpose of this paper is to report on a qualitative study of the views of a cross-section of managers and union officials engaged in joint learning projects on the impact more generally on the employee relations climate in those organisations.


Findings are based on an analysis of interview data incorporating the views and experiences of 32 union representatives and managers engaged in promoting learning in a number of case study projects in North West England.


Findings suggest that union-led learning and development has a clear impact on pre-empting potential performance issues for individuals in terms of better equipping them with the skills to achieve expected performance levels, assisting individuals with managing work-related stress and also to prevent discrimination against workers. Collectively, the managing of downsizing in particular through union-led learning support to retrain in order to redeploy effected staff or better prepare them for new employment opportunities was also a significant finding.

Research limitations/implications

The research suggests that successful union-management learning partnerships can also have a positive impact on managing conflict in those organisations. However, further research is needed to test these assertions in other union organised sectors.

Practical implications

There are implications for management in recognising the “added value” that partnership working with their unions on learning can bring in terms of also both pre-empting and resolving individual and collective disputes in the workplace.


The research is one of few studies that focuses on the link between promoting learning through union-management partnerships and managing conflict in organisations and offers a clear insight into how this can be achieved in practice.



The author would like to acknowledge and thank the reviewers for their much valued and insightful guidance and support.


Bennett, T. (2014), "Do union-management learning partnerships reduce workplace conflict?", Employee Relations, Vol. 36 No. 1, pp. 17-32.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2014, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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