Reversing the decline? Trade union strategies in Britain during the 1980s
This thesis examines the responses of British trade unions to declining aggregate membership during the 1980s and early 1990s. It describes the development of union services, contributions policies and organising strategies, looking In particular at the implementation of organising campaigns at the local level. Drawing on interviews with union full-time officials, and an analysis of documentary and statistical material, the thesis shows that during this period union organising campaigns consisted of more than empty pronouncements by national leaderships. There was clear evidence of an attempt to prioritise organising activity at the local level, although there was an unevenness In the extent to which organising activity was effectively prioritised, both between and within unions. Whilst some recruitment gains were made as a result of the organising campaigns, such initiatives were insufficient in themselves to halt the decline in membership, since unions faced severe difficulties in consolidating recruitment gains and in winning recognition from employers in the adverse economic and political climate of this period. The findings are discussed in the context of the literature on union growth and union strategy. Some support is found for the view that union growth was largely constrained by environmental factors in the short term, although it was an open question as to whether union organising strategies could exert a significant independent influence on aggregate membership levels in the longer term, by extending union organisation into new job territories. In this respect, the limited achievements of the union organising campaigns by 1991 were only to be expected, and could not necessarily be taken to imply their failure in the longer term.