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Unions and strikes -a real threat or just a succesful media promotion.

(184 Posts)
trisher Mon 23-Apr-18 11:42:42

We have had discussion about the "Winter of Discontent" and other instances of union actons in the UK. But how real is this threat that the unions will somehow disrupt life and seek to dominate government? Well firstly there haven't been that many strikes in the UK- Wiki has a list
and US strikes dominate it. Secondly some of the strikes here were viciously and violently suppressed by police action- both the printers and the miners suffered. So why do people fear these otganisations that were set up to improve the lot of the working man (and woman). Is the threat real or just media hype?
Warning- don't get hooked on the list- some of the details like the Burston Strike School are fascinating!

gillybob Mon 23-Apr-18 12:08:55

I notice the wiki page has a Labour party advert on the R/H side.

Unions (on the whole) are a good thing and I agree they were set up to improve the conditions of the working man and woman. But once these unions (and their leaders) become more and more powerful there becomes a very high risk of them beginning to dictate the conditions of working to the employer and woe betide if they don't play ball. We just need to look at recent tubs strikes (holding the capital to ransom) for a clear example of this.

lemongrove Mon 23-Apr-18 12:14:12

Exactly what gilly says, in fact the srikes in the seventies show that to be true.
Of course unions are a good thing, but not when they are virtually telling the government what to do (Labour) or trying to bring down a Conservative government in order to get Labour into power and making citizens lives a misery when strikes go on and on.There need to be good hard
reasons for a full strike.

gillybob Mon 23-Apr-18 12:18:54

There were tube strikes as well at tub strikes I believe.

confused Ooops.

Anniebach Mon 23-Apr-18 13:00:10

After the disruptions in the seventies Thatcher curbed the power of unions, Corbyn if PM will give the same powers back. McClusky has a desk in Labour HQ.

The actions of the police were a disgrace , putting it politely, but not before Thatcher , as the miners strike and the Hillsborough disaster showed,

It was the Unions who kept Lord Robens in his job regardless of the fact the enquiry found he had made misleading statements and not providing clarity on the NCB's knowledge of the water under the tip, the enquiry placed the blame entirely on the NCB.

The village requested the removal of the remaining tips, after many appeals it was agreed but an enforced sum of
£150,000 was taken from the disaster fund. This was paid back during the Blair Government. The Unions pressed the Labour government to keep Robens in his job and supported the NCB's demands that the village paid their share .

This is Unions with unleashed powers

trisher Mon 23-Apr-18 13:14:10

The actions of the police in the miners' strike and the Wapping printers strike seem to have been excessive and unnecessary. It as been suggeted that press coverage at the time was very antagonisic towards the miners and that this contributed to the dispute. In fact it has been compared to Hillsborough
Anyone like to comment?

Anniebach Mon 23-Apr-18 13:21:42

No comment on the actions of the Unions keeping Robens in his job ?

yggdrasil Mon 23-Apr-18 13:22:15

There has been talk of some documents telling the truth about police involvement at Orgreave, but whether we will ever get to see them, seeing how long it took to reveal the truth about Hillsborough.
There is a lot of talk about strikes, but very little about the real work Unions do for their members all the time. Which I have had experience of.
In Germany, Union representatives sit on the boards of companies. It helps stop things going to extremes, as happens here with some companies

mostlyharmless Mon 23-Apr-18 13:24:41

The main strikes that I remember from the past were the Dockworkers, the Miners, Printworkers, Rail strikes, Ford’s strikes and Postal strikes.
It’s a different world now. Containerisation took the dockers’ jobs, the Post Office has been broken up and email and Yodel delivery drivers means we no longer rely on postal services. The Coal mines are closed, Ford workers know their jobs are at risk from overseas competition, Printing is digitalised, British Rail has been broken up and sold off.
The gig economy, self employment, zero hours contracts have chipped away at the “Full time job for life”.
Unions have very little power now.

trisher Mon 23-Apr-18 13:24:46

gillybob No Labour party advert on that page, it is a link to Organised Labour- The Organized Labour WikiProject is a group of editors who create and maintain labour-related articles.

trisher Mon 23-Apr-18 13:26:14

I agree mostlyharmless so why does this spectre of Unions controlling our government still haunt us?

mostlyharmless Mon 23-Apr-18 13:56:02

Workers reps on company boards has been implemented in Germany since at least the 1970s. Not confrontation, but an acceptance that directors and employees working together is best for the company.
Unions have a role in Health and Safety in particular.
It seems to be negotiating money that’s the main problem area. But (generalisation here) nobody has pay rises anymore unless they’re a director or a top advisor or a university vice chancellor!
The unions haven’t been very effective at making sure workers are fairly paid. The pay differential between the highest paid and the lowest paid in a company or organisation is becoming greater all the time.

mostlyharmless Mon 23-Apr-18 14:11:24

Trisher I think unions working together with a Labour Government should be a positive thing.
Fair wages (always a difficult one but setting a limit of say nobody to be paid more than 20 times the wage of the lowest paid), health and safety, gender pay issues, maternity and paternity leave, etc.
Co-operation rather than confrontation hopefully.
The trouble is, change in the economy is so fast moving now, that employees (with a secure, well paid job) understandably want to protect the status quo.

POGS Mon 23-Apr-18 14:23:44


" But how real is this threat that the unions will somehow disrupt life and seek to dominate government? Well firstly there haven't been that many strikes in the UK"

What do you mean? Over what period of time for example.

trisher Mon 23-Apr-18 15:05:45

Look at the link POGS that's why it's there. US has many more strikes than here.

Ilovecheese Mon 23-Apr-18 15:31:12

One of the recent strikes hear that I can bring to mind is the university lecturers and I had a lot of sympathy for them, when you think of the difference between their wages and those of the vice-chancellors. The lecturers still think of universities as places of learning whereas the vice-chancellors seem to regard them as just like any other business.

Unions do so many good things for their members, legal advice, education, deals on life insurance, things that can be done so much better collectively than by individuals.

They have lost so many of their rights now, it is time the balance was redressed.

POGS Mon 23-Apr-18 19:22:20


I did look at your link but I don't understand what American Union activity has to do with how the Unions behave in the UK.

For a start America would presumably show a different level of Union Activity due to the size of the country and population in comparison to the UK.

Is your question to do with worldwide Union activity / strikes or are you asking for answers solely based on the UK Union activity/strikes. If the latter do you have a particular period of time in mind or from around the 1970's and the ' Winter of Discontent' ?

MaizieD Mon 23-Apr-18 19:58:49

One of the recent strikes hear that I can bring to mind is the university lecturers and I had a lot of sympathy for them, when you think of the difference between their wages and those of the vice-chancellors.

Interesting that you should say that, Ilovecheese, because you seem to be, maybe unconsciously, perpetrating the perception that strikes are always about pay. The university staff (it wasn't just lecturers) were actually striking about a threat to their pensions, not their current levels of pay.

I encountered the same misconception during the miners' strike. My mother thought they were striking over pay when in fact they were trying to prevent mine closures and protect their jobs. I think all the publicity at the time had completely washed over her...

While the general public associate strikes only with pay, and unions only with strikes, we will never achieve an objective and informed view of unions.

As others on this thread have pointed out, they do a huge amount of generally unpublicised work in protecting their members and their members interests.

trisher Tue 24-Apr-18 09:28:52

POGs it's not a question about any particular period or time, it's a question about how we came to this notion, so relevant once again, that unions in some way seek to control the government. The US is mentioned because over all they have had many more strikes than this country, yet I have never seen any assertions that the unions there are trying to rule the country. So the question is why is it so widely believed in this country? and as far as I can see it is the media who started, nurtured and promoted this view.

Anniebach Tue 24-Apr-18 11:59:07

Because there has been governments controlled by unions,

trisher Tue 24-Apr-18 12:04:36

Have there? Would you like to give evidence of that?

Anniebach Tue 24-Apr-18 12:10:20

I have many times

trisher Tue 24-Apr-18 13:09:30

Oh I must have missed that. Perhaps you could tell people who have just joined GN and those like me who missed your post the exact details.

Anniebach Tue 24-Apr-18 13:19:13

Good heavens no, I dare not Trisher, the time I took flack for repeating truths about Corbyn

Anniebach Tue 24-Apr-18 13:20:51

And no you didn't miss it Trisher, you never failed to defend the Unions when ever it came up for discussion