Two UK business services companies are compared both to each other and to their common state-owned industry background in order to assess the implications of trade union recognition and changed bargaining structure. Union recognition had been abandoned by one company under the agenda of "individualization" and "personal contracts" but retained by the other under the agenda of "partnership". Changes in the level at which employment relationships are regulated occurred at both companies relative to their ancestral public enterprises. The similarity of the companies in terms of products, technologies and institutional history provides an approximation to a natural experiment. The evidence suggests only secondary effects from union presence upon operational attributes and economic performance, but major effects from the decentralization of employment relations, which formed part of a wider and more radical set of changes in the relevant markets, technologies, ownership structures and labour law
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