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Unions and the capture of economic rents: An investigation using british firm level data

By S.J. Machin

Abstract

This paper considers the relationship between unions and profitability in a sample of large British firms in 1984 and 1985. The initial finding is that unionised firms have significantly lower profit margins than otherwise comparable non-union firms. Tests of whether the ability of unions to influence profit margins varies with the product and labour market characteristics of the firms in which they are located are then conducted. The ability of unions to capture economic rents is seen to be significantly greater in firms which have a high market share and/or operate in highly unionised industries.

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