The development of collective bargaining in Britain has experienced a dramatic change since the late 1970s. From 1968 to 1979, the membership of union and union density increased by 3million and 11 per cent. However, it declined dramatically after 1979. In the period between 1979 and 1997, there is a decrease by 5. 5 million in membership and by over 16 per cent in union density. Specifically, a steep fall of membership took place in the early 1980s (1979-1983), from 13 million to 11 million (Blyton, Turnbull 2004). The downward situation continued after the early 1980s.

About 50 per cent of the employees were trade union members in 1980 while the figure reduced to 29 per cent in 2004(Labour Market Trends 2004). The union decline is so harsh recently that most of the employees have no experience of union membership and it seems impossible that they will become union members in the future (Bryson, Gomez 2005). This essay is attempted to discuss and assess the reasons of the decline of collective bargaining in Britain since 1970s. The decline of collective bargaining since 1970s, as described above, has engendered intense arguments.

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To describe this trend is much easier than to explain it (Rollinson, Dundon 2007). Some say there is a certain reason mainly resulting in this decline while others emphasize the interaction of several factors. For example, Freemand and Pelletier (1990) solely utilize the changes in labour law to explain the decrease of unions during 1980s, arguing that the legal factors accounted for the ‘entire’ decline in union density in the period between 1980 and 1986. However, to explain the decline of collectivism, Metcalf (1991) disagreed the analysis above and noted that the focus on one single reason can lead to the ignorance of others.

Further, some models were developed to assist in explaining this trend. One of these models is from Bain and Price (1983). In order to comprehensively explain the union decline, factors were divided into three groups: contextual variables, business cycle variables, organizational variables. The Bain and Price model is more about macro-economic which therefore ignores the individual motivation to join a union (Rollinson, Dundon 2007). Kelly (1998) provides another model whose focus is on a perceived injustice as a motivation because individuals tend to turn to collective solutions when an injustice is experienced.

This concept has been again proved by the analysis from Jonhson and Jarley (2004). Another two models are from Metcalf and Edwards. Metcalf (1991) developed a model to explain it from five perspectives: the macroeconomic climate, the composition of jobs and the workforce, the policy of the state, the attitude and conduct of employers and the attitude of unions. Edwards (1995) noted that the explanations can base on four factors: the effects of legislation, employer’s policies, the business cycle and the changing composition of employment. Discussion in this essay will base on five groups of factors as follows: