Working with and around Voluntarism: Union Engagement with Environmental Sustainability in the UK

Ania Zbyszewska

Abstract


Drawing on documentary review and interview data, this paper examines the strategic repertoire used by UK unions over the last fifteen years to integrate environmental sustainability issues into workplace negotiation and bargaining. As we show, these strategies evidence efforts to work with (the promise) and around (the challenges of) the voluntarist industrial relations framework. While capacity building efforts work within the first dynamic, the power asymmetries currently characterising contemporary British industrial relations render the promise of voluntarism often an empty one in practice, despite the capacity that exists on the ground. Strategies of law reform and coalition building respond to the problem of power and the limitations it poses to voluntarist practice but do so with varying levels of success.