Trade Unions and Governments

  • Martin Holmes


To most of the general public, relations between governments and the unions are dominated by strikes, conflict and confrontation. The news media invariably concentrates on such newsworthy items as crisis negotiations, strike action and, in particular, controversies over picketing. To the participants themselves, ministers, management, and trade unions, the picture of government-union relations is often very different. While it is true that strikes have made the headlines — often justifiably — when relations have broken down, it is also true that for most of the past decade both government and unions have strenuously tried to co-operate to avoid industrial conflict. The Conservative government, 1970–4, under Edward Heath’s premiership negotiated and talked to the unions on a variety of economic policy matters as no other Conservative government had done before. The 1974–9 Labour government, at first led by Harold Wilson and later led by James Callaghan, co-operated very closely with their trade-union allies, particularly with regard to legislation to extend trade-union rights. Essentially the approach of the 1970s whereby unions and government attempted to work together can be labelled ‘corporatist’ (see Chapter 5).


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Guide to Further Reading

  1. Barnett’s, David Coates’s Marxist study, Labour in Power? (Longman, 1980)Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Paul Arthur, Nick Bosanquet, Paul Byrne, Henry Drucker, Patrick Dunleavy, Andrew Gamble, Martin Holmes, Martin Kettle, Joni Lovenduski, Peter Nailor, Gillian Peele, Raymond Plant, R. A. W. Rhodes 1983

Authors and Affiliations

  • Martin Holmes

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