This paper analyses the qualities required for a union to respond effectively to management consultation demands. It examines consultation in a British utilities company since privatisation from interview, documentary and archival sources. Highly developed formal consultative procedures existed under nationalisation. Equivalent processes under privatisation made new demands on unions: speed of response, decentralisation and ‘direct communication’ by management with employees. One niche trade union for professional engineers was able to deal with these demands well in relation to other unions. The union’s members had specific legal health and safety roles that were used to reduce the impact of serious job losses. Its representatives took advantage of these roles, and had a range of qualities helping it to reconcile member and management demands. This union also successfully restructured to respond to management requirements in the 1990s and has improved its position relative to its competitors. Consultation has therefore been largely ‘captured’ by one union
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