Challenges and pitfalls for workplace unionism in a restructured public service
Economic and Industrial Democracy
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In the context of restructuring that has swept across Europe in recent years, this article discusses the conditions of workplace unionism resilience in a small, predominantly female UK public service occupation – probation. Using both quantitative and qualitative data, the article offers comprehensive insights into members’ expectations towards their union branches and provides evidence of even more accountable and responsive relationships between local reps and their members following restructuring. Factors that contributed to the resilience of the union included the influence of a shared occupational identity, the legacy of large and confident branches and the (gender) democratic tradition of the union. However, the research also highlights some limitations for the permanence of effective workplace unionism in a context of socio-demographic changes as well as organizational difficulties linked to the restructuring and outsourcing process.