Unions and Privatization: Opening the “Black Box”
Using a survey of Canadian city managers during the period 2002 –2003 modeled on the U.S. International Cities and Counties Management Association surveys, the authors examine a range of union responses to proposals to privatize city services. When confronted with possible member losses, unions adopted a number of strategies: a) they reacted not at all or they supported theproposal; b) they engaged in collective action; c) they attempted arbitration and litigation; d) they negotiated to reduce adverse effects; or e) they suggested alternatives to privatization. Though unionized cities attracted a greater number of new privatization proposals, unions effectively rejectedthem, the most successful strategy being to suggest alternatives. Conversely, initiating strikes and other industrial actions were not as effective. Cities in which multiple strategies were adopted had lower long-term privatization rates. These results support a pragmatic view of union-management relations illustrating how unions and city managers found mutually acceptable alternatives to privatization or adjustment policies.