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Uk Trade Union In 21 Century

4656 words - 19 pages

Historically, trade unions in the United Kingdom have been viewed as: (1) collective employee organisations established to protect employees from arbitrary actions by employers in matters of pay and working conditions, and (2) as promoters of the legitimate interests of people at work. In practice, they have also played an important role in the political life of the nation, and, to a lesser extent, in its social affairs. The ability of trade unions to exercise power and influence over users of their service depends on the relative demand for that service. Thus, when demands for skilled labour in the economy are high trade unions are in a relatively ...view middle of the document...


There was a reduction in the number of strikes, number of workers involved in strike action and the number of working days lost. Strikes and other trade union actions were once common themes in British newspapers and television news. The disruption and political instability they caused were important in laying the grounds for a long period of Conservative government. A conjunction of tightening legislation, fear of unemployment and reduced trade union authority led to a relatively steady decline in the number of strikes.


The legislation had a profound effect on the power and influence of trade unions. In various ways, it had a direct impact on issues such as trade union membership, closed shop agreements, trade union recognition and reduction in industrial action.

Impact of Relations Legislation Enacted by
Conservative Administrations

Key changes Acts of Parliament contributing to change
Decline in trade union membership Indirectly, all the Acts listed in Table-1
Abolition of the closed shop Employment Act, 1980
Employment Act, 1982
Public Order Act, 1986
Decline in trade union recognition Employment Act, 1980
Trade Union Act, 1984
Decline in collective bargaining Indirectly all the listed Acts
Single-employer bargaining Indirectly because of the change in style of employee relations
Reduction in industrial action Employment Act, 1980, in relation to picketing
Employment Act, 1982
Trade Union Act, 1984
Public Order Act, 1986

Other issues were not directly addressed by legislation but the restrictions on trade union activity; organisation and unrest affected the broad climate of employee relations. This in turn led many employers to distance themselves from any interaction with unions or to engagement in formal collective bargaining, as it had been understood in previous decades.


Early industrial relations were characterised by collectivisation to defend workers against exploitative employers and the development of formal bargaining arrangements. In the second half of the twentieth century, industrial relations can be seen as a shift from a pluralist perspective-to a unitarist view, which assumes that a strong corporate culture will eliminate conflict. Legislation enacted by the Conservative administrations in the 1980s and 1990s, other changes inspired by a climate of individualism exemplified by Margaret Thatcher, and market competition have shifted the power balance between unions and employers. European influences are steadily influencing employee relations Practices in the UK and we give particular attention to the notion of social Participation and to the roles of works councils and supervisory boards.


HRM has been accused of being instrumental in changing the nature of Employee relations. It has been described as an...

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