Emergence and identification of the problem
in Comrades in conflict
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This chapter provides background and context to the emergence of ‘the trade union problem’ in the 1960s. It emphasises how four discrete factors fuelled growing concern about industrial relations in Britain, and the conduct of trade unions, namely: emerging evidence of Britain's relative economic decline; the changing structure of the British economy, through industrial centralisation and the growth of oligopolies; new data about the incidence of unofficial and unconstitutional strikes; the recourse to incomes policies to secure wage restraint and curb inflation, and the additional problems which accrued from these policies, such as the phenomenon of ‘wage drift’. In addition, the chapter draws attention to the political significance of a landmark judicial decision in 1964, Rookes v Barnard, which fuelled demands for a formal inquiry into the law pertaining to trade unionism. By this time, a growing number of senior politicians and civil servants were becoming convinced of the necessity of legislation to reform industrial relations and curb strikes, particularly as the increasingly inter-connected character of British industry and the economy meant that even a small strike, involving just a handful of workers, could cause widespread disruption.

Comrades in conflict

Labour, the trade unions and 1969’s In Place of Strife

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