Towards ‘strike free’, 1975–82

in Assembling cultures
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The final chapter looks at the way forms of workplace power were dissipated between 1975 and 1982. This chapter examines oral history interviews conducted at the time, as well as documentary sources, to determine why it was that some of Britain’s most ‘strike-prone’ car factories came to be declared ‘strike-free’ in the mid-1980s.

This chapter approaches this development from the perspective of the workforce and its shifting attitudes towards workplace activism and collective action, arguing that alongside wider economic and political factors, there was also a general decline in the capacity of shop-floor trade unionism to reproduce itself, as the intensity of social practices of workplace activism made mass democratic involvement increasingly difficult to sustain.

Centralisation at the beginning of the 1970s, the involvement of senior activists in workers’ participation schemes and a wider decline in interest in trade-union activism contributed to a disconnect between convenors, stewards and members, making resistance to rationalisation schemes, and then to government union legislation from 1979, increasingly difficult.

Assembling cultures

Workplace activism, labour militancy and cultural change in Britain’s car factories, 1945–82

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