Britain’s Strike ‘Problem’

  • Robert Taylor


Britain has won a reputation during the past twenty-five years for being a strike-prone nation. The willingness of workers to take disruptive forms of industrial action in pursuit of a wage demand or to remedy a grievance is regarded by many people (including trade unionists themselves) as a manifestation of Britain’s so-called ‘disease’. Certainly much of our media (particularly television and the popular tabloid newspapers) spotlight stoppages and often convey the impression that the country suffers from a peculiarly virulent form of labour militancy. ‘For a number of years our industrial relations image has tended to create the impression that British industry is “riddled” with strikes’, argued a 1978 study carried out by the Department of Employment.1 ‘We can ill afford an exaggerated industrial relations image which would tend to impede export orders and inhibit inward investment by contributing to decisions not to trade with or invest in the United Kingdom’. Industrial disruption is seen as ‘bad news’, ensuring lost production and the further impoverishment of society. Yet editorial denunciations about the strike-happy British worker remain no substitute for a careful and dispassionate scrutiny of the facts. Here, as in so many other areas of our industrial relations system, mythology tends to mask a much more complex reality.


Manual Worker Industrial Relation Late Sixty Late Seventy Industrial Relation System 
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Notes and References

  1. 1.
    C. T. B. Smith, R. Clifton, P. Makeham, S. W. Creigh, and R. V. Burn ‘Strikes in Britain’, HMSO, 1978, p. 87.Google Scholar
  2. 6.
    The Changing Contours of British Industrial Relations, ed. W. Brown (Basil Blackwell, 1981) pp. 80–101.Google Scholar
  3. 8.
    J. E. Cronin, Industrial Conflict in Modern Britain (Croom Helm, 1979) p. 195.Google Scholar
  4. 9.
    Worker Militancy and Its Consequences 1965–1975, ed. Solomon Barkin (Praeger Publishers, 1976) p. 365.Google Scholar
  5. 10.
    The Resurgence of Class Conflict in Western Europe since 1968, two volumes, ed. C. Crouch and A. Pizzorno, (Macmillan, 1978) pp. 571–2.Google Scholar
  6. 11.
    E. Mandel, Late Capitalism (New Left Books, 1975).Google Scholar
  7. 12.
    A. Glyn and R. Sutcliffe, British Capitalism, Workers and the Profits Squeeze (Penguin, 1972) pp. 21–2.Google Scholar
  8. 15.
    E. Hobsbawm, The Onward March of Labour Halted?, (New Left Books, 1981) p. 14.Google Scholar
  9. 16.
    O. Kahn-Freund, Labour Relations: Heritage and Adjustment (Oxford, 1979) p. 78.Google Scholar
  10. 20.
    J. Gennard, Financing Strikers (Macmillan, 1977) and his article with R. Lasko, ‘Supplementary Benefit and Strikers’, British Journal of Industrial Relations, March 1974.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Robert Taylor 1982

Authors and Affiliations

  • Robert Taylor

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