Trade union power in the 1990s : a case study
The Conservative governments of 1979-1997 were determined to reduce what they saw as "excessive union power". A succession of Employment and Trade Union Acts designed to undermine collective organisation and therefore trade union power were passed. The common perception tends to be that trade union power has been severely curtailed; however, some researchers suggest that very little has changed on the shopfloor. The main aim of the research was to ascertain what trade union members thought about the power of their trade unions. The focus of the study was on the local and workplace union organisations of the ABEU and UNISON. The research involved a case study approach. Data was obtained through the use of observation, interviews, questionnaires and the analysis of documentary evidence. It is concluded that trade union power is still a reality in the 199Os, though that power may be looked upon differently depending whether the focus is on unions at a national level or within the workplace. National unions may have changed but workplace organisations appear to remain much the same as they always have; some workplace organisations are effective and others do not appear to be as successful at achieving their aims. The success of workplace trade unionism is dependent upon the personalities and styles of working of the lay representatives. The legislation appears to have had little effect on independent workplace union organisations, though claims that the legislation had reduced trade union power appear to have been taken at face value, even by union members. As long as effective lay representatives are forthcoming there is no reason why unions at workplace level should not continue protecting their members' interests well into the 21st century.