Unions and Employment in a Market Economy : Strategy, Influence and Power in Contemporary Britain book cover
1st Edition

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

ISBN 9780367786793
Published March 31, 2021 by Routledge
226 Pages

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Book Description

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.

Table of Contents

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



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