Changes in trade union-government relations 1974-2002

Dave Marsh, Heather Savigny

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    Even if the role of unions is less than it was, they are still an important aspect of civil society in a democracy like the UK, so that changes in the relationship between the TUC and the government are an important aspect of changing patterns of governance in the UK. Here, we analyse this relationship during the period between 1974 and 2002 based upon the reports of the General Council of the TUC to each TUC Annual Conference. The analysis shows that the contacts between the TUC and government have fluctuated significantly over this period. They did decline in the Thatcher years although, interestingly, contacts were greater under Thatcher than under Major. The election of a New Labour government in 1997 was accompanied by an initial increase in contacts, but contacts declined subsequently. These fluctuations clearly reflect policy changes so, for example, contacts decreased when incomes policies became a thing of the past. However, they also reflected changes of personnel in government; so the replacement of Pym by Tebbit in 1982 was quickly followed by a fall in contacts. As far as New Labour is concerned, their historical links with the trade unions still mean that contacts are greater now than they were under the Conservatives. However, the initial surge in contacts probably reflected a broader pattern, with New Labour delivering on a promise of greater consultation made in opposition.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)165-174
    Number of pages10
    Issue number3
    Publication statusPublished - Sep 2005

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