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.
KeywordsDepression Europe Income Expense Lost
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Notes and References
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