Unions, Work Practices, and Wages under Different Institutional Environments: The Case of Canada and England
Using data collected in 2003–2004 in national telephone surveys of 750 Canadian and 450 English workers, the author finds that alternative work practices (AWPs), such as autonomous teams, quality circles, and information sharing, provided meaningful pay gains for non-union workers but not union workers in both Canada and England. In Canada, non-union AWP payoffs approached union wage premia at even moderate levels of AWP adoption, suggesting that AWPs may serve as an alternative means to higher pay, one that is incompatible with unions and that could erode demand for union representation. In England, there was no meaningful union wage premium, suggesting that AWPs may have replaced pay bargaining as a means to higher pay; but an interaction term combining union representation and “best” HR practices bore a strong association with higher pay, consistent with a new economic role whereby unions achieve gains for their members through collaborative, performance-enhancing strategies.
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