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Green No More? The Coming-of-Age of UK Trade Unions' Environmental Agenda 1970-2011

Farnhill, TH (2011) Green No More? The Coming-of-Age of UK Trade Unions' Environmental Agenda 1970-2011. PhD thesis, University of York.

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Abstract

Abstract The relationship between trade unions and the environment is widely regarded as tense and difficult, yet in recent years the environment has become an important new campaigning issue for UK trade unions. Historically, union antagonism towards the environment has been exaggerated but the relationship was not close. UK unions have supported environmental initiatives since the 1970s, although these have been inconsistently implemented. Ideological and class-based differences between the trade union and environmental movements exist, but have been overstated, while the political opportunity structure was not conducive to cooperation between unions and environmental groups until the 1990s. Union decline followed by modernisation in the 1990s altered the labour- environmentalist relationship by changing the content and conduct of trade unionism and employee relations alike; creating new spaces within which more diverse union memberships could articulate novel bargaining and organising agendas (within a revised approach to employee relations) and enhancing unions’ porosity to social dialogue in order to facilitate their rehabilitation to the UK’s social, political and economic policymaking arenas. Union environmental policies and activism reveal the influence of both membership interests and ideology and unions’ search for practical applications for a nascent green (bargaining) agenda. Nevertheless, although the TUC has identified the environment as a strategic concern, relatively few of its members are consistently implementing a green agenda, despite evidence that it is popular with both members and activists. Unions’ contemporary environmental activism appears largely unrelated to union size, membership trend or finances and relatively immune to sectoral and employee relations specificities. Union headquarters’ support for the development of a unionised green function and pro-environmental attitudes are, however, important. Unions remain to be convinced of the agenda’s efficacy as a vehicle for recruiting new members and activists, but more optimistic regarding its ability to enhance their influence with employers. However, case study evidence suggests that a technocentric and conservative workplace greening agenda has limited use either as a recruitment tool or as a vehicle to promote collectivism and its ability to recruit new activists merely reflects extant branch capabilities. Further, although workplace greening is associated with favourable environmental policy and policymaking outcomes and processes it does not appear to generate any pro-union shift in relative bargaining power.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Academic Units: The University of York > Politics (York)
Depositing User: Mr TH Farnhill
Date Deposited: 03 Jun 2013 09:57
Last Modified: 08 Aug 2013 08:53
URI: http://etheses.whiterose.ac.uk/id/eprint/3997

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