By Keith W Munday
The history of industrial relations is not a happy one.
Disputes have regularly occurred in which workers have protested over wages or
working conditions. Trade unions came into being in the 19th century to protect
workers from employers' exploitation, as up to that time they had no rights
under British law.
Since that time the Unions' collective activities have
gained considerable muscle, winning many advantages for their members. Much of
this was accomplished by mutual negotiation, but where their goals could not be
realised that way, they resorted to more practical protests such as going slow,
working to rule or going for an out-and- out strike, downing tools.
No one likes a strike, except perhaps a militant minority
who often have their own agenda (usually political). Picketing is sometimes adopted to dissuade
those who still desire to work. Secondary picketing however, where third
parties are involved is not allowed.
Strikes can become bitter. There can be scuffles with the
Police, injury to persons and damage to property. The strikers suffer loss of
wages unless the Unions offer some help. There is often a knock-on effect to
other companies that supply or who are served by the business in dispute. The
general public also of course are greatly inconvenienced.
Industrial relations in Britain reached an all-time low
during the winter of 1978/9 when bakers, refuse collectors, railway workers,
road haulage and hospital workers, journalists, ambulance drivers and social
workers went on strike. Strong feelings amounting to hatred were expressed. The
turmoil compared with that of the General strike of 1926.
Return to the Homepage