The general opinion in Britain at present is that the unions are not facing significant changes in management attitudes towards the institution of unionism. This view has been devised from surveys of relatively large‐sized plants in the manufacturing sector, an area of traditionally high levels of unionisation. It is argued that researchers in the UK may be looking in the wrong place or for the wrong signs in drawing this conclusion. Researchers may have been looking for substantial changes in management‐union relations rather than less obvious changes in terms of the power of existing institutions or of sustained opposition to new recognition agreements. Material relating to voluntary conciliation claims for recognition between 1976 and 1985 is examined, which shows a halving in the number of claims. Three recent studies in new towns all point to the high percentage of non‐union firms. A fall in union density can occur due to external contingencies, even in the absence of explicit management strategies of opposition to union organisation.
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