British trade unionism in the 1980s reassessed. Are recurring assumptions about union membership and strikes flawed?

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

13 Downloads (Pure)

Abstract

This article questions the hypothesis, put forward by several historians and IR academics, that the 1980s decline in British union membership and strike frequency, was driven by major industrial defeats, a cultural shift away from collectivism, and the adverse effects of the Conservative Government’s anti-union legislation. In contrast, this paper argues that international economic developments, most notably the globalisation of manufacturing production, along with the British Conservative Government’s economic policies, which resulted in mass unemployment in heavily unionised areas of the economy, were the principal reasons for the declines in union membership and strike frequency during the 1980s. In support of this theory, my article draws upon extensive contemporaneous research, which I conducted when I worked in the Industrial Relations Research Unit at the University of Warwick in the late 1980s. This research illustrates how strike frequency and union membership fell in the early and mid-1980s, before membership stabilized, and the frequency of strikes relative to the number of unionised workplaces increased, during the short-lived economic upturn of the late 1980s.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)547-574
Number of pages28
JournalLabor History
Volume64
Issue number5
Early online date7 Jul 2023
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 7 Jul 2023

Keywords

  • 1980s, trade unions
  • Trade unions
  • union membership
  • Thatcherism
  • strikes
  • 1980s

Fingerprint

Dive into the research topics of 'British trade unionism in the 1980s reassessed. Are recurring assumptions about union membership and strikes flawed?'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this