Unlike the northern European versions of “social partnership” on the continent, the British version is not supported by any legal right guaranteeing the existence of worker representation. It can therefore be considered more vulnerable and more dependent on the approval of the company`s management. This situation can be changed by the forthcoming adoption of UK legislation, which provides for trade union rights to the recognition of employers (UK9903189F) and, in the long term, by the possible extension of information and consultation rights to all workers (EU9812135F), fuelled by the EU. (Michael Terry, IRS) The consideration of whether this is a serious overhaul of the United Kingdom`s labour relations must be found in the highly decentralised British system by an analysis of agreements reached at the level of companies that purport to embody these principles. It is impossible to specify the number of partnership contracts and the number of employees they cover, although these agreements appear to be important in the private services sector (including financial services and retail) and in recently privatized utilities (water and electricity). Although there is no one-to-do definition of partnership, there are now enough partnership agreements for key definitions to emerge. Other elements often known about partnership agreements are that while trade unions are recognized and designated as one of the partners in the agreement, their formal role is explicitly recognized and their scope and status are often broadened. An agreement with Scottish Power has described a central “partnership council” as an “effective vehicle for management and union representatives” to meet the common commitment to future growth and success… as described above … partnership agreement.” London and Manchester (Management Services) and the Manufacturing Science Finance (MSF) union have agreed as a general principle to “seek maximum union participation as soon as possible in all enterprise plans and initiatives involving workers”. An agreement between Blue Circle Cement and its four recognised unions (a pioneering agreement developed in the 1990s – UK9702102F) claims to have significantly strengthened the role of trade unions by focusing national negotiations on long-term strategic issues and expanding the scope of joint consultation. The Tesco supermarket group provides employee forums in each store that give rise to group and regional union meetings. In general, companies involved in such agreements have often stressed the importance they attach to trade union participation and have explicitly or implicitly encouraged workers to join trade unions.
While insisting that an effective partnership can only be developed with representative unions, employers` organisations and the government, they argue that an effective partnership can be established in non-union enterprises (UK9906108F). Non-union partnership agreements emphasize worker participation through teamwork, briefings and employee surveys, but there is no evidence that the concept of partnership itself contributes significantly to the development of collective systems of worker representation in non-union environments. The emphasis on partnership and the culture of cooperation raises issues that address more distribution issues, such as wage and conditional bargaining and complaint management.