Raising union membership - the union default proposal

This is a Centre for Employment Relations Innovation and Change (CERIC) seminar taking place at Leeds University Business School on Wednesday 13 February 2019


Union membership and influence at are historic lows in most developed countries around the world. In an almost zero-sum game, this means employers all the more have the whip hand as the hegemony of neo-liberalism continues (with HRM as its birth child). In all these countries (and others), the default setting in the employment relationship is ‘non-union’. The proposal to establishing the default as ‘union’ (with the individual right to opt out) is a proposal to help unions rebuild their membership and influence in order to reconfigure the power balance the employment relationship. The proposal is based upon insights from behavioural economics (on inertia, social norms, loss aversion, switching costs etc.), industrial relations (on union membership, union organising) and labour law (on union membership and union recognition) to rebalance the employment relationship. In Britain and New Zealand at any rate, the opportunity to see such radical reform within the employment relationship is closer to hand than for many decades. This talk will set out the case for the union default and consider some of the obstacles in realising it as state policy.


28 February 2019 - Professor Andrew Sturdy (University of Bristol) “Management as consultancy - the hybridity and tensions of neo-bureaucratic management”

About the speaker

Gregor Gall has published over 100 peer reviewed papers in academic journals, written 10 books and edited another ten. His most recent books are:

  • Sex worker unionisation: global developments, challenges and possibilities (2016, Palgrave)
  • Bob Crow – socialist, leader, fighter (2017, Manchester University Press)
  • Employment Relations in Financial Services: an exploration of the employee experience after the financial crash (2017, Palgrave).

He has also contributed over 60 chapters to various books. The subject matter of these largely concerns the processes and outcomes of workers' collective interest representation, primarily through labour unions. On top of these activities, he has organised symposia, public meetings and seminars, and have made a fist of knowledge exchange and transfer through running a research service for unions and writing for popular outlets like the Guardian, Conversation and Huffington Post.