Skip to Content

Finding a Voice at Work? Charting 30 years of change

Peter Ackers
  • Topic: Finding a Voice at Work? Charting 30 years of change
  • Speaker:

    Professor Peter Ackers

  • Venue:Building E4A, Room 623 Macquarie University
  • Time: 1:00pm - 2:30pm


register nowThis talk paper is based on a new edited research collection, Johnstone and Ackers, Finding a Voice at Work? New Perspectives on Employment Relations (Oxford University Press, 2014) and our 'Introduction' in particular.

I trace the developing Voice debate over the past 30 years. Around 1980 this centred largely on trade unions and collective bargaining, and in a voluntarist system like the UK there was a strong emphasis on a 'single channel'. In the 1980s, however, managerial or unitarist versions of voice came into their own through New Developments in  Employee Involvement (Marchington et al 1992). Often these threatened the once central role of trade unions under the pluralist system. Social Partnership approaches had a long tradition in continental, northern Europe, but Partnership and Mutual Gains came to the fore in the UK and US during the 1990s (see Ackers et al (eds) *Trade Unions & the New Workplace*, 1996). Often this  neo-pluralist approach (Ackers 2002, 2014) sought to reconcile managerial EI and trade unions. The result was a more hybrid range of HRM policies, described in a UK CIPD report as *Management Choice and Employee Voice* (Marchington et al 2001). At the same time, more detailed research studies of workplace partnership pointed to the importance of contextual factors (see Johnstone 2004).

The author has been at the centre of the research tradition and debates outlined above. The new book takes forward all the above debates. Section One return to the unitarist, pluralist, radical debate over the concept of voice, and Section Two carries forward the 'Partnership' debate. However, there are also major innovations. David Guest on 'Engagement' and Anne-Marie Greene on 'Equality & Divesity' bring new approaches into the discussion. Above all, Section Three on 'varieties of capitalism' (Hall and Soskice 2000) and EU policies, such as European Works Councils and the Ice Directive, addresses the 'Europeanisation' of this central HRM policy theme. The recent election of a majority Conservative government and the prospect of an EU Referendum raise new issues for the UK Voice debate.

The authors take broad neo-pluralist approach to voice, open to trade unions, management and state initiatives – and different national institutional arrangements. However, we argue, to be meaningful, voice must give employees some genuine say over issues that affect their wages and conditions, and allow for some independent, collective representative of the workforce as a whole.

Professor Peter Ackers talks about Hugh Clegg, Industrial Relations Pluralism and Employee Voice


Peter Ackers studied Politics and Philosophy (PPE, including Sociology) at Lincoln College, Oxford University, followed by an MA in Industrial Relations from Warwick University. His PhD was a biographical study of the link between Protestant nonconformity and trade union leadership in the Lancashire coal industry. Peter's intellectual interests centre on the sociological and historical aspects of the employment relationship and how this affects ordinary people and society at large. His work stresses the moderate, constructive character of organized labour, with themes of partnership and pluralism, and challenges Radical and Marxist theories of Industrial Relations.

Peter has co-edited two research collections: Ackers et al (1996) The New Workplace and Trade Unionism (Routledge); and Ackers and Wilkinson (2003) Understanding Work and Employment: industrial relations in transition (Oxford). Stewart Johnstone (Newcastle University Business School) and Peter have just completed a new edited book, *Finding a Voice at Work: New Perspectives on Employment Relations*, for Oxford University Press.

New Oxford University Press edited book: Johnstone & Ackers, Finding a Voice at Work?

For more information please contact: Ammy Kwong at


More Information

Related research seminars