Recently, the Burke Group (TBG) helped Kettle Chips stay union-free in the UK. In America, ‘union avoidance’ is an industry worth hundreds of millions dollars per year. Increasingly anti-union consultants are expanding to the UK and to other European countries. TBG operates in the UK, Belgium, France and Germany.
According to a report by John Logan of the London School of Economics, most British unions were unaware in 2001-2003 that employers were using TBG. They were completely taken by surprise by the level of resistance they met.
One exception is low-cost airline FlyBe, where the union persuaded the employer to drop TBG and subsequently won a convincing victory. However, with the exception of FlyBe, “it appears that unions are losing the majority of organising campaigns involving outside consultants, and these failures may discourage other unions from attempting to organise new workplaces if they anticipate vigorous employer opposition”.
Union busters help employers convince their employees that they are better off without a union. Sometimes they use subtle psychological techniques; sometimes they resort to aggressive intimidation and smear campaigns.