In 1999, when the labour government introduced several national-based legislation like the Employment Relations Act, union representation was strengthened. The statutory right to trade union recognition ensured that companies no longer ignored or de-recognise a trade union. Trade unions experienced a reversal in declining fortunes in terms of union membership. While trade union membership in recent years has been stemmed, the prevalence of non-union employment relations is significant.
The situation in the non-union sector is understood by the results of the Workplace Industrial Relations Survey (WERS), first undertaken in 1980 followed by one in 1998. Union recognition was a norm among the few public sector workplaces, where union couldn’t bargain, as their pay is determined by review bodies. Among the private sector, nearly two-thirds of all workplaces were without trade unions in 1998. As revealed in the data, non-unionism had become common, although it is difficult to sum up on the management of employees in the non-union workplaces.
Some feel non-union organizations are the models of best practices while others argue that these organizations provides lesser rights and benefits to workers, while not being willing to give or receive information and also not being receptive to suggestions or dissent. Studies have shown that workplaces having no union Union involvement in workplace learning 13 were very unlikely to have an alternate mechanism in place, like consultative committees. That is union representation and indirect employee participation go together, rather than substituting each other.
When there is a union, but has not been recognised by the management, then the selection to the consultative committee would either be through voluntary or management appointment. There are many reasons as to why organisations have either no union members or have not recognised trade unions. Some organizations might be anti-union, pursuing a policy of suppression on the union. Some organizations could even have adopted non-unionism by chance rather than by a strategy (Towers, 2003).