Language, legislation and labour : trade union responses to Conservative Government policy 1979-1990
The thesis examines the responses, as articulated in language, of the trade union movement in the UK (especially, the TUC) to changes in labour legislation introduced by the Conservative Government between 1979 and 1990. The research attempts to identify and interpret key words, themes and repertoires within union discourse by analysis of TUC pamphlets, 'campaign' literature, policy documents and speeches at the annual Congress, supplemented by information obtained from informal interviews with several union figures involved in constructing a response to the legislation. The nature and extent of changes in patterns of union language are explored through consideration of the materials over two distinct time periods - 1979-1983 and 1986-1990 - thus allowing examination of the rhetorical responses of the TUC/unions throughout the duration of the Thatcher Government. In order to place such responses in context, and to examine the extent to which the vocabulary of the unions was both shared with and shaped by other participants in the policy process, consideration has also been given to the language of Government in documents such as Green Papers and in Parliamentary debates, in addition to that of 'New Right' commentators who may have influenced the making of policy on labour legislation. Particular attention is paid to the way in which the characterisation of union immunities from legal liability as 'privileges' shaped the linguistic response of the unions and their strategy towards the presence of law in industrial relations. Union language during the period 1979-1990 is found to exhibit characteristics both of change and continuity. Those alterations which occured are considered in the light of theories of Thatcherism as a hegemonic project and in the context of wider changes in the discourse of the Left. The problem of isolating causative factors is also addressed.