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British Unions in the 1970s/1980s?


OnTheBranchline

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Is it just me or did it seem like the various unions in Britain were combative for the sake of being combative during the 1970s/1980s? What I mean by that is that they were always out there to be always the devil's advocate and not be a part of the solution in any form. I remember watching a YouTube video of a Jeremy Clarkson show on why the British Auto Industry failed and there was a former manager talking about how many dozens of work stoppages that they had on a simple work site visit.

 

Of course, some of it is what your philosophy on unions are and what people experienced during that time (since I'm just reading and watching after the fact).

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I suggest that you read a few books on social, political and industrial history during the 20th century rather than watching YouTube. At least by doing that an enquiring mind will be able to understand the complex and longstanding issues and come to an informed view.

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British Unions grew immensely in power and membership under the Wilson Labour governments of the sixties.  As such the ywere able to exercise significant industrial muscle and in some cases did so.

 

Under the later Heath and Thatcher Conservative administration they were pressured and the Iron Lady soubriquet applied to the latter was to some extent justified.  As Unions do they rebelled and struck but probably not without some sense of justification.

 

Industrial relations legislation has curbed the power of the Unions to bring the nation to its knees since the "Winter of Discontent" and the 3-day working week.  The so-called "Triple Alliance" of railway, mining and industrial unions which caused so much misery in the 70s has been dismantled.

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Is it just me or did it seem like the various unions in Britain were combative for the sake of being combative during the 1970s/1980s? ......

 

No, it's not just you, but weight of numbers won't mean you're necessarily right; for every Daily Mail reader there is an equal and opposite Guardian reader. So many factors come into play it becomes hard to say even at a superficial level whether your premise is correct. To even attempt an answer bigger questions about social justice, democracy, power and money loom large in the background. My favourite killer question of the moment is 'at what time do we attempt to assess what has gone before'; is forty years too soon?

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The unions were started to fight for worker's rights against the cold hearted industrial barons however, post war, when the industries were privatised the employer effectively became the government and any disputes became a lot more political. I suspect that this lead to political activists becoming more attracted to leading unions than they had been previously.

As a side question, were there many actions against private employers during the period mentioned in the original post?

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Two thoughts:

 

1. As entertaining as he can occasionally be, I would not consider Jeremy Clarkson to be a reliable and unbiased historian.

 

2. Unionism in the 70s and 80s was certainly political, but it always has been. Look up the General Strike of 1926 to see how much havoc really serious Union activism can make.

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Since Jeremy Clarkson makes Genghis Khan look like a pinko lefty I hardly think you are likely to get a balanced view.

 

I'll give you good odds that this bizarre topic for RMWeb doesn't make it to the end of the first page :no:

 

Jerry

 

By the way, his conclusion at the end is that it was everyone's fault (the unions, management, the Germans, etc).

 

And I did some research before I made this topic.

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