Pay Determination: British Workplace Industrial Relations 1980–84, Chapter 9

DOIhttp://doi.org/10.1111/j.1467-8543.1987.tb00717.x
AuthorWilliam Brown
Publication Date01 Jul 1987
British Journal
of
Industrial Relations
25~2
July
1987
0007-1080 $3.00
Pay Determination: British Workplace
Industrial Relations
1980-84,
Chapter
9
William
Brown
*
How does the collapse of the labour market affect the way in which pay is
fixed? The largely comparable surveys
of
1980
and
1984
offer a remarkable
opportunity to measure the extent
to
which the conduct
of
pay bargaining in
Britain was altered by the abrupt and sustained worsening
of
economic
circumstances at the start
of
the decade. They were years in which
unemployment trebled and the rate of nominal earnings increase fell by
two-thirds. This part
of
both surveys was carried out by W. W. Daniel,
whose
1975
study did
so
much to set the methodological style for subsequent
workplace surveys, a style that has proved robust and rewarding.
There are three major questions to be asked
of
the detailed data that
Daniel’s chapter provides. The first is whether the recession altered the
extent to which employers colluded with each other against labour. What
happened, in other words, to multi-employer bargaining? The second is
whether a weaker workforce provided the opportunity, or reduced the
incentive, for employers
to
tighten controls over pay within their own
enterprises. The third is whether there were any signs of a change in
management’s control over the conduct of work. Was there, more specific-
ally, any change in the management
of
the relationship between pay and
productivity?
EMPLOYER
COLLUSION
The answer to the first question is that employer collusion declined
substantially.
As
reflected in the extent of observance of multi-employer pay
agreements, the decline that was already well underway in the
1970s
continued. This applies to both manufacturing and services in the private
sector (it is not, of course, relevant in the public sector), and to both their
manual and non-manual workforces. It is evident in replies about which
bargaining level was the most important in pay fixing. Here, it should be
added, the full effect is masked by the bias introduced by the rapid decline in
establishment size in manufacturing during the early
1980s;
the probability
*Professor
of
Industrial Relations, University
of
Cambridge.

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