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Philip Begley

Getting away with murder? Trade unions, their practices, and their political and economic impact were important issues throughout the 1970s. 1 Such was their significance that, according to different interpretations, this was either the period which marked the highpoint of trade unionism in British history, or it was the moment of victory for neoliberal critiques of trade unions and the beginning of the end for traditional industrial relations. 2 The Conservative Party is at the heart of these debates and was at the centre of many important

in The making of Thatcherism
British and German trade unions at Ford and General Motors 1967–2000

Paradoxes of Internationalization deals with British and German trade union responses to the internationalization of corporate structures and strategies at Ford and General Motors between the late 1960s and the early twenty-first century. Based on research in more than a dozen archives in Britain, Germany and the United States, the book is unique in its attempt to bridge historical and contemporary approaches to the study of trade union politics in multinational firms. Conceptually, Paradoxes of Internationalization draws not only on the mainstream industrial relations literature but also on scholarship in comparative and international political economy, transnational history and nationalism studies.

The book points to the paradoxical effects of internationalization processes. First, it demonstrates how internationalization reinforced trade unions’ national identities and allegiances. Second, the book highlights that internationalization made domestic trade union practices more similar in some respects, while it simultaneously contributed to the re-creation of diversity between and within the two countries. Third, the book shows that investment competition was paradoxically the most important precondition for the emergence of cross-border cooperation initiatives although the interest-driven nature of these initiatives also limited their scope.

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

This book examines the 1969 attempt by Harold Wilson’s Labour Government to enact legislation to reform industrial relations. There was a particular concern to curb strikes by the trade unions. Published in the 50th anniversary of this ill-fated episode, this scholarly study makes extensive use of primary sources, many of them previously unpublished, most notably the archives of the Labour Party, the left-wing Tribune Group, the TUC, and the personal papers of the three key political figures involved, namely Harold Wilson, Barbara Castle and James Callaghan. The chapters are organised both thematically and chronologically, each one focusing on a particular aspect of the events leading to the proposed Industrial Relations Bill, and its subsequent abandonment. The book commences with an examination of the key economic and industrial developments of the early 1960s, to indicate how the ‘trade union problem’ was initially identified and defined. This led the Labour Government, elected in 1964, to establish a Royal Commission to examine industrial relations, but its report, published in 1968, was a cautious document, and therefore a deep disappointment to Harold Wilson and his Employment Secretary, Barbara Castle. They thus pursued their own industrial relations legislation, via a White Paper called In Place of Strife, but were overwhelmed by the scale and strength of opposition this aroused, and which eventually compelled them to abandon the legislation via a humiliating climb-down.

Trade unions, the Conservative Party and the failure of the Industrial Relations Act 1971

Who governs Britain? examines the 1970–74 Conservative government’s attempt to impose a formal legal framework on British trade unions for the first time. It explores how, in the name of solving Britain’s strike ‘problem’ and reversing a prolonged period of relative economic decline, this attempt to regulate collective bargaining arrangements descended into farce. The Act is known as a policy fiasco. This book explains why. The book provides significant new insights through extensive use of primary sources from the National Archives, Modern Records Centre and Conservative Party Archives. It employs a novel, multi-dimensional framework to analyse the government’s failure to disengage from – and thus ‘depoliticise’ – this controversial process of reform. The analysis illustrates how inadequate drafting, flawed assumptions about internal trade union dynamics, strategic failings in policy implementation and tensions linked to complex interdependencies at the heart of the state apparatus undermined the government’s strategy and contributed to its ultimate downfall. The book argues that this attempt to pacify trade unions was thrown into doubt when presumptions about trade union deference to, and respect for, the rule of law proved to be unfounded. The National Industrial Relations Court was widely perceived to be an extension of government and therefore illegitimate. The empirical chapters are organised both thematically and chronologically, analysing key events in the Act’s short but tempestuous existence to provide fresh insights into the industrial battles that followed. Who governs Britain? considers how these events influenced Conservative attitudes towards trade unions in the 1980s, shaping the industrial relations landscape today.

Shipyard workers and social relations in Britain, 1870–1950

This study examines British shipbuilding and industrial relations from 1870 to 1950, addressing economic, social, and political history to provide a holistic approach to industry, trade unionism, and the early history of the Labour Party. Examining the impact of new machinery, of independent rank-and-file movements and of craft and trade unions, it provides an account of industrial action in shipyards in the period and their effect on the birth and development of the Labour Party.

The Callaghan government and the British ‘winter of discontent’

This book examines the causes, character and impact of the 'winter of discontent' in British politics, particularly the strikes of 1978–1979 and the role of the government in managing industrial relations. It examines how the media reported the industrial strife, the significance of the 'winter of discontent' in the history of the Conservative Party and its impact on the 1979 general election. The role of the media coverage of the British 'winter of discontent' raises a number of interesting historical and methodological questions. The book focuses on how the media including the national and local press, television and radio, reported the causes, character and impact of 'winter of discontent' in Britain. Press hostility towards the unions was particularly unrestrained during the industrial unrest of September 1978 to March 1979, at a time when trade union membership peaked at 13 million. Currently, the cultural, economic, social and political histories of the 1970s are being subjected to increasingly detailed scrutiny by historians and social scientists. From September 1978 to March 1979, the Callaghan government appeared to be swept by a wave of strikes, go-slows and industrial stoppages. The 'winter of discontent' has now become coded shorthand for poor economic performance, over-mighty union barons, industrial anarchy and an ailing Labour administration that, according to its political opponents, made Britain 'the sick man of Europe'.

Abstract only
The parliamentary Labour right and the ‘trade union question’
Stephen Meredith

5 In Place of Strife? The parliamentary Labour right and the ‘trade union question’ Awareness of Britain’s relative economic decline led Social Democrats to a series of economic questions, each of which involved trade unionism . . . It was in seeking answers to these questions that . . . ‘The Old Order’ – the post-war consensus – ‘crumbled’ and the first crack occurred in its weakest area – namely over the role expected of trade unions . . . Where once Gaitskell and Crosland had urged that legislation should be kept out of industrial relations, now a significant

in Labours old and new
Peter Dorey

3 The initial political response The conservatism of the Donovan Report was deeply disappointing to Harold Wilson and Barbara Castle. They had quietly hoped that the Royal Commission would propose a major reform of industrial relations, including statutory curbs and obligations being imposed on the trade unions, whereupon the predictable outrage by union leaders would be pacified by the Labour Government’s announcement of a more modest package of policy proposals (Ponting, 1990: 352; Tyler, 2006: 467). This tactic was rather undermined by the fact that the

in Comrades in conflict
The local and national contexts
Thomas Fetzer

This chapter outlines the contextual framework, within which German and British trade union politics at Ford and General Motors evolved between the late 1960s and the early twenty-first century. The chapter starts with a brief sketch of the post-war development of the British and German automobile industries, followed by a synthetic overview of the development of the two national industrial relations systems and the description of the specific trade

in Paradoxes of internationalization
Open Access (free)
A new labour market segmentation approach

This book presents new theories and international empirical evidence on the state of work and employment around the world. Changes in production systems, economic conditions and regulatory conditions are posing new questions about the growing use by employers of precarious forms of work, the contradictory approaches of governments towards employment and social policy, and the ability of trade unions to improve the distribution of decent employment conditions. Designed as a tribute to the highly influential contributions of Jill Rubery, the book proposes a ‘new labour market segmentation approach’ for the investigation of issues of job quality, employment inequalities, and precarious work. This approach is distinctive in seeking to place the changing international patterns and experiences of labour market inequalities in the wider context of shifting gender relations, regulatory regimes and production structures.