From Socialist Voice, January 2007

Union-busters of the world, unite?

The global union-busting industry is now worth several million dollars a year, aiding employers in undermining union strength not only in its traditional stronghold of the United States but also in Canada, Australia, France, Germany, Britain, and Ireland.
     Recent research by the London School of Economics shows that union-busting consultants and law firms are no longer merely responding to employers’ demands for their services but are engaged in aggressively creating demand by encouraging managements to avoid the “catastrophe” that is unionisation.
     In Britain the Burke Consultancy Group has been involved in several recent campaigns in such companies as T-Mobile, Amazon, Virgin, and Calor Gas. Many unions are not even aware of the presence of these consultants, as they opt to work beneath the radar, using local management and supervisors to implement their strategies.
     In all its campaigns the Burke Group informs clients that it enjoys an international reputation for “eliminating union incursions” (www.tbglabor.com/resources/union_avoidance.aspx). In Ireland some consultants have been active in selling the idea that “most Irish organisations would be far more productive if there was no union in the organisation” (Industrial Relations News, May 2005). Additionally, elements of the legal profession have been very quick in carrying out scaremongering among employers over the Industrial Relations (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act (2004) as providing an alleged “Trojan horse” for union recognition and cultivating an image of “aggressive recognition campaigns” aimed at “helpless” employers.
     There is some evidence that these agencies may even be supplanting the role of employers’ organisations in giving advice and practical help during recognition disputes. By developing and popularising effective union-avoidance strategies, consultants and others are making themselves an indispensable component of employers’ anti-union arsenal.

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