Account for the decline in trade union power, 1964-1990

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Khalimov Murad

“Account for decline in trade union power, 1964-1990”.

Long before Mrs. Thatcher came into power in 1979, Trade Unions were very important for the post war consensus governments. Both, Labour and Conservative party had been, in some way, dependent on Union’s support for their governments. Workers also had public support, which only strengthen their position and influence in the country. But with the time, Trade Unions started to demand more and more, undermining government and having exaggerated opinion about their own power. These led to actions from government that wanted to reduce their power and led to clashes between workers and decision makers. Soon it led to political crisis’s; energy crisis and loses of support of public by Trade Unions. The refusal for compromise led to a loss of the “war” to Mrs. Thatcher in 1984 and Unions were never as strong as they were in post war consensus era anymore.

        One of the first modern clashed with trade unions happened during Wilson’s Prime Ministry. Labour was depended on Union’s support, as any other party that would be in charge, and thus in order to keep them happy Wilson appointed trade unionist Frank Cousins minister of technology. Wilson also relied on keeping good relations with the TUC (Trade Union Congress). He also proposed Price & Incomes policy. This policy was meant to stop wage rise by negotiating with unions in order to keep inflation down. The policy was a small part of different policies targeted on tackling economic problems in the UK in 1960s. It was a difficult thing to maintain worsened by a long and bitter strike by the National Union of Seamen, which led to sterling crisis in 1966. Next, docks strike, was in 1967 affecting London and Merseyside. These strikes led to fall of previous cosy relationship between government and unions. The big strikes by seamen and the dockers caused huge problems for government. Also they showed that old bosses of unions are loosing control over their members thus reducing their power and influence on government. A lot of local strikes were known as “wild cat” strikes, strikes that are sudden, unofficial local disputes begun without reference to the national leadership, were started by local activists who would not take orders from the top. Number of strikes had gone up rapidly, being 1937 strikes in 1966 and 3116 in 1969.

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        These persuaded Wilson that actions should be taken. He showed his anger by describing them as “small group of young men determined to endanger British Industry. He and his new employment minister, Barbara Castle, started planning to use the law to limit unofficial strikes. In January 1969 Castle produced white paper, “In Place of Strife”. As she believed in strong unions but also was convinced of the need for it to act responsibly, in many ways her proposals in the white paper would strengthen unions in dealing with employers. However 3 aspects of her plans, 28 day “cooling off” period ...

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