Non-union employee representation: evidence from the advanced English speaking countries

Paul J. Gollan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This paper examines the current research debates over non-union employee representation (NER) arrangements in advanced English speaking countries. It reviews the current literature and debates around four core research questions: First, what are NER arrangements from the perspective of advanced English speaking countries? Second, what is the rationale for establishing NER arrangements? Third, are NER arrangements a complement to union representation or do they act as a substitute for union-based voice arrangements? Fourth, how effective are NER arrangements in representing the interests of employees and employers? Overall, the findings presented in this review of the NER literature and evidence-based research would seem to suggest that the legitimacy of NER arrangements as alternative to unions is inadequate and concerns remain over some key issues. These include: lack of independence of NER compared to union representation; resource dependency of NER forms on the employer; the capacity of NER arrangements compared to unions to challenge management decision-making; the lack of non-union representatives’ knowledge and experience compared with union representatives; and the more limited level and scope of NER influence and input compared to unions. In addition, the incentives that motivate NER highlight that the intentions and actual outcomes may be contradictory due to a number of external and internal circumstances. The research also suggests that the old dichotomy of union versus non-union channels of voice is likely to prove inadequate in shaping future representation arrangements. Instead focus could be more fruitfully directed towards the quality of employee representation and resultant climate of employment relations, manifested in a mosaic of substance and process. Embracing this alternative orientation has important consequences for management strategies towards NER voice arrangements.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)91-124
Number of pages34
JournalKorean journal of industrial relations
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2010


  • non-union employee representation
  • trade unions
  • employee voice
  • industrial relations
  • employers
  • non-union workplaces


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