The process of negotiation between unions and employers in respect of the terms and conditions of employment of employees, and about the rights and responsibilities of trade unions . The term is reputed to have been coined by Beatrice Webb in the late nineteenth century to describe a process alternative to that of individual bargaining between employer and individual employees. Other writers have emphasised the conflict-resolution aspects of collective bargaining, but in Britain the most important refinement was that made by Allan Flanders, who defined it as a process of rule-making, leading to joint regulation in industry. The term is usually seen as necessarily containing an element of negotiation and hence as distinct from processes of consultation , from which negotiation is absent, and where outcomes are determined unilaterally by the employer. In Britain collective bargaining for many years has been, and been endorsed as, the dominant and most appropriate means of regulating workers' terms and conditions of employment, in line with ILO Convention No. 84. Surveys indicate that in 1984 over 70 per cent. of all workers working in enterprises employing more than 25 employees were covered by collective bargaining: some 10.7 million employees. See bargaining structure .
Collective bargaining in Britain is voluntary (see voluntarism ). There is no legal obligation on employers to negotiate with trade unions (see recognition ), although there are areas, such as health and safety , where there is a legal requirement on employers to consult with recognised trade unions . Some commentators suggest that collective bargaining is dwindling in importance in the 1980s as employers turn to other means of dealing with their employees (see Human Resource Management ). Evidence suggests both a slight reduction in the scope of collective bargaining where it is established, and a growing disinclination among employers in the growth industries (private services and high technology industries) to bargain with trade unions. There has also been some de-recognition .
Please note: the European industrial relations glossaries were compiled between 1991 and 2003 and are not updated. For current material see the European industrial relations dictionary.