Introduction To Industrial Relation

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  • These three factors are closely linked – they happened simultaneously, and conditioned each other
  • Craft guilds: their functions were sometimes only marginally related to IR


  • 1. Lecture 4: The Historical Context of Industrial Relations Niels-Erik Wergin Introduction to HRM
  • 2. Why study the History of IR?
    • Because
    • “ in no other country do contemporary developments reflect as strongly deep historical origins” as in the UK.
    • (Edwards et al. 1998: 2)
    • With other words: in order to understand the present, we need to understand the past.
  • 3. Overview
    • Three topics:
    • The development of trade unions
    • The development of employers’ organisations
    • The development of employment law and IR institutions
      • These 3 topics are related to the 3 actors in IR: labour (employees/unions), capital (employers), and the state
  • 4. The Origins of Industrial Relations (IR)
    • (History of IR) influenced by four major factors: Politics, Economics, Society and Technology
    • The history of IR began in the late 18 th century
      • Industrialisation (1780-1840)
      • Emergence of a factory system
      • Development of a capitalist economy
      • Major changes in economy and society
      • Result: Emergence of a working class
      • Reaction: Establishment of trade unions (TUs)
  • 5. The Beginnings: Early 19 th Century
    • 1799/1800: Combinations Act – collective organisation of workers and strikes are an illegal "restraint of trade"  conspiracy
    • 1824: Combinations Act repealed
    • yet, during much of the 19 th C., governments and the law remained hostile tow. organisation of workers; strikes still illegal
    •  serious obstacles to the establishment of TUs
    • 1834: "Tolpuddle Martyrs" exiled to Australia
  • 6. Early-mid 19 th C. – The first Unions
    • First local trade unions developed out of medieval craft guilds of skilled workers
    • From mid 19 th C.: local unions of craftsmen formed nationwide amalgamations
      •  first modern TUs / "New Model Unions“
      • involves formal organisation with hierarchy from national to branch level, offices, paid union officers etc.
      • more permanent than previous organisations
      • employers started to engage in collective bargaining (collective negotiations) with these unions
      • 1851: ASE – Amalgamated Society of Engineers (now part of Amicus)
  • 7. The late 19 th Century – More Unions
    • 1868: Trades Union Council (TUC) formed
    • 1871: Trade Union Act gives TUs legal status
    • 1880s: semi-skilled and unskilled workers begin to organise – "New Unionism" / "General Unions"
      • Gas workers' union (now part of GMB)
      • Dockers's union (now part of T&G)
    • 1880s: White-collar unions formed
      • Nat. Union of Elementary Teachers (now part of NUT)
    • 1890s: over 1000 unions ( Ø m’ship just over 1000)
  • 8. The late 19 th Century – Changed Government Policy
    • 1899: TUC establishes forerunner of Labour Party
    • late 19 th C.: Royal Commission on Labour concludes that strong organisations of workers and employers are the most stable basis for regulating employment
      • Support of TUs and collective bargaining becomes official govt. policy for almost a century (until Thatcher)
    • 1906: Trade Disputes Act protects trade unions and the right to strike
      • provided main principles of trade union law (until Thatcher)
      • based on a system of immunities from legal liabilities
  • 9. Employers’ Associations (EAs)
    • EAs also grew during late 19 th - early 20 th century, as a reaction to the establishment of TUs
    • Origins in 18 th C. were local collaboration
      • Engineering Employers Federation
      • Building Trades Federation
      • Ship Building Federation
    • Growth in 20 th C. – linked to national bargaining
    • Decline since 1980s – linked to switch to local bargaining
  • 10. The Shop Steward Movement
    • During first world war: emergence of Shop Steward Movement
      • more radical rank-and-file movement than established unions
      • "parallel unionism"
      • mainly in engineering, shipbuilding
      • Becomes less important in interwar period
      • Becomes important again during the 1960s
  • 11. The Post-War Period - Keynesianism
    • Establishment of “Welfare State”
    • Full employment
    • Economic growth
    • Trade Unions are at the peak of their power and membership
      • In the late 1970s, Jack Jones and Hugh Scanlon, the leaders of two big unions (and not the prime minister) are voted as “most powerful men of Britain” in a survey
  • 12. The 1970s
    • 1971: Conservative government introduces "Industrial Relations Act"
      • comprehensive legal framework, similar to US system
      • law is resisted by both employers and unions
      • 1974: law is repealed by Labour government
    • 1978/79: "Winter of Discontent" – series of long strikes in the public sector
      •  the (Labour) government seemed to have lost control, many people thought that unions were to powerful
  • 13. The 1980s/90s: Thatcherism
    • 1979-1997: Conservative governments (Margaret Thatcher and John Major)
    • Economic policy of liberalisation, deregulation and privatisation
    • Shift from Keynesianism to Neo-liberalism
    • Shift from national to local bargaining
    • Most radical changes to IR legislation since the industrial revolution
      • Achieved by a series of eight laws on IR
  • 14. New IR Legislation under Thatcher and Major
    • Major elements of these laws:
      • restriction of strikes
      • govt. support for collective bargaining ends
      • end of closed shop
      • regulation of internal union affairs
      • restriction of individual employment rights/protection
    • Weakened TUs considerably:
      • Miners Strike 1984-5 lost
      • Wapping Dispute 1986 lost
  • 15. Since 1997: “New” Labour
    • The new Labour Government under Tony Blair did not change the legal framework introduced by the conservatives, apart from three major changes:
      • TU recognition legislation
      • Minimum wage
      • Right to strike strengthened
    • Also: support for social partnership and “new unionism”
  • 16. Further Readings
    • Edwards, P et al. (1998): “Great Britain: From Partial Collectivism to Neo-liberalism to Where?” In: Ferner, A/Hyman, R (eds.): Changing Industrial Relations in Europe , pp 1-54. Oxford, Malden: Blackwell.
    • Hyman, R (1995): “The Historical Evolution of British Industrial Relations”. In: Edwards, P (ed.): Industrial Relations – Theory and Practice in Britain , pp. 27-49. Oxford, Cambridge: Blackwell.
    • Marchington, M/Goodman, J/Berridge, J (2004): “Employment Relations in Britain”. In: Bamber, G/Lansbury, R/Wailes, N (eds.): International and Comparative Employment Relations – Globalisation and the Developed Market Economies , pp. 36-66. London et al.: Sage. 
    • Salamon, Michael (2000): Industrial Relations – Theory and Practice (4 th ed.). Harlow: Prentice Hall.