2023-01-25 10:11:08

How 1970s Britain Beat the Anti-Union Laws

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Tribune
By Edda Nicolson

The post-war story of industrial relations is one of change. Trade union membership was high in the 1950s, and a significant number of those members were Tory voters. When Churchill came back into office in 1951, he took a cautious approach in search of stabilising the wounded post-war economy. Despite significant but localised unrest in the coalfields and occasional national disputes like the 1953 oil strike and the 1957 bus strike, the industrial landscape remained relatively calm.

The changing social trends and relatively high inflation of the 1960s was reflected in the growth of white-collar and public sector workers unions. Industrial action was also increasing, with a growing number of strikes originating from the workplace level. Rank-and-file members in the car industry, for example, with no real propensity for industrial conflict before the Second World War, caused a marked increase in days lost to strike action.

When the Royal Commission on Trade Unions and Employers Associationsknown as the Donovan Commissionwas set up in 1965, trade unions were on good terms with the Labour government that had come in the previous year. But by the time the commission gave its findings in the 1968, cracks had begun to show.

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