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The Potential of Labour−Management Partnership: A Longitudinal Case Analysis

Lookup NU author(s): Dr Stewart Johnstone



This is the authors' accepted manuscript of an article that has been published in its final definitive form by Wiley-Blackwell Publishing Ltd., 2017.

For re-use rights please refer to the publisher's terms and conditions.


Issues of labour management cooperation have long attracted the attention of management researchers, practitioners and policymakers. In Britain, the most recent wave of interest has been under the rubric of labour management partnership, normally concerning the development of cooperative relations between unions and employers. A recurring theme is that cooperative relations can be difficult to develop and sustain, especially in liberal market economies. This article advances the debate by examining the dynamics of labour management partnership within the context of a British financial services organisation over a twenty-five-year period. Drawing upon empirical case study data collected between 1990 and 2014, the article assesses the dynamics of the relationship between a building society and the recognised staff union. We confirm the possibility of sustaining collaborative relationships associated with a mutual gains agenda within a liberal market economy as well as the fragility of such arrangements. While we acknowledge that sustaining cooperative regimes can be difficult, we also caution against the tendency towards institutional determinism and underplaying of agency in many of the partnership critiques. Given the lack of a credible alternative, we conclude that labour management partnership remains an important public policy goal and should not be dismissed as a chimera.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Johnstone S, Wilkinson A

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: British Journal of Management

Year: 2017

Volume: 29

Issue: 3

Pages: 389-591

Print publication date: 01/07/2018

Online publication date: 08/08/2017

Acceptance date: 27/04/2017

Date deposited: 02/05/2017

ISSN (print): 1045-3172

ISSN (electronic): 1467-8551

Publisher: Wiley-Blackwell Publishing Ltd.


DOI: 10.1111/1467-8551.12240


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