1st Edition

Unions and Employment in a Market Economy Strategy, Influence and Power in Contemporary Britain

By Andrew Brady Copyright 2019
    226 Pages
    by Routledge

    226 Pages
    by Routledge

    Due to the sharp declines in trade union density and collective bargaining coverage post-1979, the shift by trade unions towards political action has had significant implications for employment relations regulation in contemporary Britain. Yet, there remains insufficient discussion of the factors of influence affecting changes in the political action process from a historical and contemporary perspective. Unions and Employment in a Market Economy will evidence how trade unions were able to offset environmental constraints through a progressive focus on political action, despite diminished power in the Labour Party’s structures and the wider economy. The book presents four legislative events categorised as functional equivalents enacted in two different periods of Labour governance (1974-79 and 1997-2010). The selected events are the Social Contract (1974-79), National Minimum Wage (1998), Employment Relations Act (1999) and the Warwick Agreement (2004). The book’s findings lend credence to the proposition that in a liberal market economy there is a valuable dividend associated with trade union political exchange through the Labour Party.

    List of Tables

    List of Boxes


    Chapter 1: Trade Union Strategy, Influence and Power in Contemporary Britain: An Introduction


    Varieties of Capitalism

    Deconstruction and Reconstruction

    New Labour: Continuation of neoliberalism or breaking with the past?

    Labour Party: A Channel for Trade Union Political Action

    Trade Union Leadership, Strategy and Structure


    Chapter 2: The Social Contract (1974-79)


    Donovan Commission and In Place of Strife

    The Industrial Relations Act (1971)

    The Social Contract in Formation

    The Social Contract in Operation

    The Winter of Discontent 1978/9

    Evaluation and Reflections

    Chapter 3: Employment Relations Reform under New Labour: Context, Continuity and Change


    Conservative Liberal Market Reform

    Political Action: New Mechanisms

    Ideological Disunity, Space and Convergence: Opposition Years

    Progressive Centralisation

    Formal to Informal Processes

    1993/7 Political Fund Ballots

    New Policy-Making Processes

    Agency and Diminishing Trust

    Chapter 4: The National Minimum Wage (1998)


    The Development of the NMW

    The Low Pay Commission

    Policy contestation and division

    Evaluation and Reflections


    Chapter 5: The Employment Relations Act (1999)


    Fairness at Work (May 1998)

    Employment Relations Bill

    ERA (1999)

    Evaluation and Reflections

    Chapter 6: The Warwick Agreement (2004)


    Exeter Policy Forum (2000)

    Leadership Dynamics

    The Big Four

    Institutional Reconfiguration: TULO

    The Agreement Implementation

    Evaluation and Reflections

    Chapter 7: Strategy, Influence and Power: lessons from history


    Structural Context: shifting fronts

    Degree of Coordination

    Transition to Informality

    Concluding Observations

    Chapter 8: Conclusion

    Leadership and Strategic Choice

    Political Action and Electoral Reform

    New Structural Pressures

    Appendix A: List of Interviews as Introduced

    Appendix B: Key provisions of the Employment Act 2002

    Appendix C: Key Warwick Agreement pledges




    Andrew Brady is an academic with a PhD from the University of Strathclyde and works in the British labour movement.