Official and unofficial action in the fight against anti-union laws

Issue: 151

Ralph Darlington

The Conservative government’s Trade Union Act 2016—in particular the strike balloting threshold provisions—represents the most radical tightening of the rules on industrial action and trade union organisation since the Margaret Thatcher era of the 1980s.1 Notwithstanding the series of significant concessions made to ensure its passage through parliament, the substantive thrust of the original Bill remains intact. It threatens to reduce the capacity of unions to organise and represent members at work and undermine the basic right to strike. It forms part of an ideological and operational agenda to utilise the austerity crisis to attempt to neuter the so-called “important public services” where strike action has been concentrated in recent years. The Tory government fears strikes in these sectors as potential centres of resistance to the deep cuts currently being implemented and yet to come. In essence, as part of a strategy to reduce the public deficit by cutting many more jobs, reducing pensions, freezing pay rises and further outsourcing, the Trade Union Act, even in its diluted form, is designed to make it more difficult for unions to stop employers cutting pay, pensions and staff and creating more flexible working practices.

Alas, there was an enormous gap between the severity of the restrictive measures contained in the Bill and the relatively lacklustre response mounted by the Trades Union Congress and trade union bureaucracy. This is despite the organisation of a series of protest meetings, rallies and demonstrations and the “heartunions” week. When Unite general secretary Len McCluskey (accepting the legitimacy of the Bill’s strike balloting thresholds) said: “Give us electronic ballots and turnouts will never be a problem again”, it underlined how weak the unions’ strategy (with some notable exceptions) had been. It was tantamount to preparing to work within the new law, not defy it. However, we should avoid a fatalistic attitude that suggests that once on the statute book the new measures mean the end of workers’ struggles. It is important not just to look at the huge challenges of the Act and the weaknesses of the official trade union response, but also to consider what can be done to circumnavigate and blunt the legislation, and ultimately to encourage a militant fightback that can make it inoperable.

Over the last 200 years anti-union legislation has repeatedly been met by workers’ opposition which, in the face of official union prevarication, has often seen a crucial role played by rank and file direct action initiatives from below. The most spectacular and successful demonstrations of this rank and file defiance of anti-union legislation were the battles against Labour’s In Place of Strife in the late 1960s and the Tories’ Industrial Relations Act in the early 1970s. This defiance occurred despite the hesitations and restraint of the trade union bureaucracy, but it was not only unofficial rank and file action that took place. There were important elements of a rank and file/bureaucracy interplay, a complex unofficial/official union dynamic at work that should not be ignored.

Dave Lyddon has recently critiqued Mark O’Brien’s historical examination of the limitations of one-day national strikes in this journal. As Lyddon justifiably points out, O’Brien understates how important official union involvement and action was to workers’ confidence in providing space for rank and file initiative even during the period of widespread unofficial action in the 1967-74 strike wave.2 In essence there was a failure to grasp the way in which official union bodies provided legitimacy for action that would otherwise have been difficult to win. This was evident in the process encouraging and feeding back into the momentum of unofficial workers’ struggles, as well as the strength, organisation and independent initiative of the rank and file to go beyond official channels.

Such considerations clarify a three-dimensional historical understanding of how workers’ struggles against anti-union legislation developed in the late 1960s and early 1970s. It also has contemporary implications for how we might try to help fan the flames of resistance to the Tories’ new legislation, notwithstanding the radically changed and much more difficult context. This article re-examines in some detail workers’ successful resistance to In Place of Strife and the Industrial Relations Act with a view to drawing out some broader generalisations about how the struggle against the current Tory government legislation could be encouraged and advanced today.

Fighting against In Place of Strife, 1969

While the defeat of the 1971 Industrial Relations Act is justifiably viewed as being a magnificent chapter in British working class history, the trade union movement by no means sprang forth in united hostility to the Tories and the legislation. It required a protracted struggle from below, building on the successful rank and file momentum that had been generated two years earlier in opposition to the Labour government’s White Paper In Place of Strife. This had been drawn up by employment secretary Barbara Castle. Labour’s proposed anti-union legislation contained measures to order a cooling-off period in so-called “unconstitutional” strikes (mainly unofficial ones), to force a ballot where an official strike involved a serious threat to the economy or public interest and to impose “financial penalties” on union or strikers who disobeyed government instructions.

The TUC’s Finance and General Purpose Committee did not reject Labour’s proposals out of hand but said its aim was to reach agreement with the government on improving industrial relations and strengthening voluntary collective bargaining.3 Private meetings were held between Castle, prime minister Harold Wilson, and Vic Feather (TUC general secretary designate) in an attempt to resolve differences.4 Attitudes among TUC general council members hardened when the full extent of plans to penalise unofficial strikes became apparent to the wider union movement, and a Special Congress on 5 June 1969 overwhelmingly voted to reject the threatened statutory penalties on trade unions or strikers. But concerned not to humiliate Wilson or drive him out of office, the TUC refused to support strike action against a Labour government, despite the fact that hundreds of thousands of rank and file members were deeply hostile to the proposals.

It was left to the Liaison Committee for the Defence of Trade Unions (LCDTU), a Communist Party (CP) controlled body formed in 1966 to campaign against government wage constraint and, bringing together a large number of shop floor militants, lay trade union reps and some full-time officials (within and beyond the membership ranks of the CP),5 to take the initiative in mounting the first overtly political strike since the 1926 General Strike. Taking the call for industrial action against the White Paper made by various regional, district and local union bodies amenable to CP influence, the LCDTU declared support for a one-day stoppage of work to take place on 27 February 1969 to coincide with a conference of executive committees of unions affiliated to the TUC. Success was limited. Estimates of the numbers on strike ranged from 65,000 to 150,000 (with a lobby of the London conference with some 2,500 to 3,000 participants), but in the face of opposition from the major unions, and lack of support even from the left-led Transport and General Workers’ Union (TGWU) and Amalgamated Union of Engineering Workers (AUEW), there was little action outside Scotland and Merseyside.

But instead of being deterred, another LCDTU conference in April 1969, attended by an impressive 1,700 delegates (nearly three times its previous total), urged the TUC General Council to call a “national 24-hour strike”, welcomed decisions from different union bodies to strike on 1 May, and called for “increased efforts in this respect”. Despite its careful phrasing to avoid accusations that an unofficial body was mounting action outside official union structures, the LCDTU was for the second time supporting strike action independently of the bulk of the official union leadership and against its powerful opposition. National support was forthcoming from only three small unions—SOGAT printers, NASD dockers and the Lightermen—while the draughtsmen’s DATA instructed its members not to cross picket lines. Numbers on strike remained small, with estimates varying between 90,000 and 250,000, including dockers across the country, printers in London and Glasgow (with official union support for stopping the national newspapers), car workers in Birmingham and Oxford, the Scottish area of the miners’ union, and engineering union districts in Liverpool, Manchester and the West of Scotland. There was also a 25,000-strong demonstration in London. The LCDTU subsequently organised a lobby of the TUC recall Congress on 5 June with demands to develop the struggle for a 24-hour general strike, organised and led by the TUC General Council.6

Although the strikes, demonstrations and lobbies involved only a small minority of workers, the response to an independent initiative, taken once more in the face of hostile opposition from the TUC and many union leaders (although some “progressive union executives”7 and “politically sympathetic”8 full-time union officials were supportive), was highly significant and made a real contribution to the defeat of In Place of Strife. Eventually Wilson backed down when he realised the strength of the revolt—from the unions, as well as the Labour Party’s National Executive Committee, the Parliamentary Labour Party (with as many as 57 MPs voting against the government in the Commons and a further 30 abstaining), and within his own cabinet (including right wing home secretary Jim Callaghan). Yet despite the legal plans being dropped in June 1969, the TUC entered into a “solemn and binding undertaking” to try to control unofficial strikes. As left wing transport union leader Jack Jones acknowledged in retrospect: “A victory had been scored in defence of the right to strike without fear of legal sanctions but the TUC took aboard some big new responsibilities”.9 Exactly one year later Labour lost the general election.

The Industrial Relations Bill, 1970-71

The incoming Conservative government’s Industrial Relations Bill produced a rerun of the agitation against Labour’s In Place of Strife, but on a much bigger scale. The Bill threatened to make collective agreements legally enforceable, outlaw the closed shop, introduce postal ballots and a 60-day cooling-off period before strikes, narrow the definition of a lawful “trade dispute” and make sympathy action illegal. It proposed the state registration of unions, with the loss of immunity from being sued by employers in the civil courts if they were not registered, and a new National Industrial Relations Court with punitive powers to impose fines on unions and order sequestration of their assets. A consultative document on industrial relations legislation issued in October 1970, with only a few weeks for comment, made it clear the Tories were determined to forge ahead with its plans to legally shackle the ability of trade unions to organise and represent their members. Hugh Scanlon, left wing AUEW president, recalled that such intransigence “left us with no option, either accept it or fight it”.10 On 15 October a special meeting of the TUC General Council agreed to break off discussion and to mount a mass opposition campaign on behalf of its affiliated membership.

Yet the TUC leadership played a very ambivalent role.11 On the one hand, they provided an important degree of ideological, political and organisational resistance, supporting and even initiating limited mobilisations against the government. They produced hundreds of thousands of pamphlets explaining the Bill’s dangers, organised numerous protest meetings across the country, a protest rally in London’s giant Albert Hall, and a “Kill the Bill” national demonstration attended by an estimated 140,000 trade unionists. But at the same time, they were reluctant to lead a fight that would defy the law and risk all-out confrontation with the government. They attempted to keep the protest within tight limits, a strategy of “controlled militancy”.12 The twin aims of trying to win “public opinion” against the legislation and building support for the return of a Labour government that would repeal it ruled out any attempt to force the government’s hand by strike action. The pressure for a fightback came from elsewhere, notably from shop stewards and rank and file union activists who were most threatened by the law, along with support from some more ­determined sections of union officialdom.

At first the focus of this opposition was provided by the LCDTU, who organised a conference on 14 November 1970 attended by a record 1,800 delegates from 300 trade union branches and districts, 155 stewards’ committees and 55 trades councils, as well as by the executives of some unions, including SOGAT. While agreeing that education and agitation against the proposed legislation were important, the conference criticised the TUC for failing to understand that they were best developed through mass strike action. Encouraged by a wide range of calls for strikes from numerous workplace and local and regional union bodies, it was more forthright than it had been 18 months earlier, calling for a one-day strike on 8 December 1970, the day the Bill was to be published.

This was denounced by the TUC General Council, who had strongly advised unions “not to support in any way the activities of unofficial bodies who may be arranging conferences or demonstrations or recommending stoppages of work”.13 It was also opposed by many union leaders, and again received no explicit support from the TGWU or AUEW (the latter of whom left the decision to its district committees). However, in the event, official union support for the action was extended slightly further than previously to embrace the CEU constructional engineers and ACTT television and allied technicians, with the SOGAT print union leadership even going into hiding for 24 hours to avoid being served with a court injunction ordering them to call off the officially sanctioned strike of their members.

In the process the strikes reached much higher, if still limited, levels than against In Place of Strife, with somewhere between 350,000 and 600,000 taking part. The pattern of support largely followed that of previous stoppages, being strongest in Scotland, Merseyside, Manchester, Sheffield and London, and mainly concentrated in engineering, print, the docks and mines; national newspaper production was also stopped. TUC general secretary Vic Feather remarked that 9.5 million trade unionists had worked “in the face of attempts by a front organisation to mislead them”.14 Whatever its limitations (in terms of the overall numbers involved and its confinement to traditional areas of union militancy) the Communist Party through the LCDTU had once more, despite considerable official union opposition, motivated significant stoppages: “in familiarising workers with political industrial action, the strikes had an incalculable impact in stiffening and extending opposition to the proposed legislation”.15

The impact was manifest at the December meeting of the TUC General Council at which the AUEW, TGWU and other unions warned that they could lose control of opposition to the Act.16 In an attempt to reflect the growing mood of combativity, the TUC called for a day of demonstrations on 12 January 1971 with local meetings during meal breaks and after working hours, although in many respects the initiative was also aimed at trying to take control of the protests and thereby defuse the situation. Yet the TGWU’s support for demonstrations inside working hours, combined with the LCDTU’s call for strikes resulted in stoppages of work, involving about 170,000 to 180,000 (and perhaps 50,000 more earlier on 1 January—at that time not a bank holiday—when Birmingham car factories and lorry drivers struck).17

LCDTU’s navigation between official and unofficial action

Significantly, the LCDTU and CP took the view that to defeat the Industrial Relations Act through mass strike action it would be necessary to go beyond the forces that it was able to mobilise itself. They would need to win over the support of much larger sections of the official trade union movement. Considerable effort was placed on winning influence inside official union structures and putting pressure on the union bureaucracy to turn their fighting rhetoric into action. On the basis that it was now a Conservative (rather than Labour) government introducing the anti-union legislation, there was more receptiveness to this appeal, at least among some left officials. As we have seen, the LCDTU had failed to secure the official support of most major unions, with many full-time officials vigorously objecting to what was perceived to be an “unconstitutional” body. As a result, in most unions shopfloor militants mobilised in favour of strike action in the face of opposition from their leaders.18 According to Jim Hiles, LCDTU secretary, although “there were full-time officials who appreciated the necessity of such a committee at this time, there was no way they could play a formative role. This is because of their vulnerability in such a situation”.19 Nonetheless, it did have some success in utilising links between militant shop stewards, lay union officers and individual left union officials at different levels, particularly in those geographical areas, industries and unions where the CP had some influence. Sometimes this meant providing informal pragmatic support for union officials sympathetic to the call for more militant action but trying to avoid causing them public embarrassment in the process.20

The AUEW, the second biggest union in the country, was the union where the CP and the Broad Left were strongest and national president Hugh Scanlon gave a more militant official lead on the issue of anti-union legislation. Its Broad Left organisation, which involved an alliance of Communist Party and left Labour and other militant activists and officials, enjoyed a majority both on the union’s 52-strong policy-making National Committee and its Executive Council, with an estimated 62 of the 182 full-time official union posts associated with it.21 Its most distinguishing feature was “a reliance on the Communist Party as an organising motor and the CP’s reliance on an uncritical relationship with ‘progressive’ officials as the political motor”.22

In contrast to its giant partner the TGWU, which was prepared to argue the case for strikes at the TUC General Council but not to initiate them, the AUEW’s National Committee, following a decision by the union’s national conference, took the lead in organising two one-day official national strikes against the bill before it became law. On both 1 March and 18 March 1971 an estimated 1.25 ­million engineering workers took strike action. The second strike day coincided with another special TUC conference to agree policy on the legislation. Alongside the AUEW, the Boilermakers and Sheet Metal Workers were the largest unions officially to call out their members for both these strikes, with nine unions backing the second strike, including SOGAT. In the process, the motor industry, docks and newspapers were completely closed down, with strikes also in the gas, water and electricity supply industries.

Although it is often ignored in many historical accounts that justifiably tend to celebrate rank and file initiatives taken at the time, the AUEW’s strikes in engineering and beyond—with official estimates of 3 million working days “lost”—were pivotal in bolstering the legitimacy and efficacy of strike action against the legislation among much broader layers of trade unionists than would otherwise have been the case. They thereby fed back into the overall unofficial momentum from below. As Tony Cliff, in assessing the growing momentum of the movement against the Industrial Relations Bill in 1970 and early 1971, argued:

The movement, unofficial in origin, could not have developed on the scale it did without the support of sections of the trade union leadership. This support changed the atmosphere of the campaign…the leftward shift of sections of the official movement—however limited it was…reflected real pressure from significant numbers of militants within the movement…

The ultra-left illusions that the official trade union movement is dead, that it cannot mobilise its membership and that the sole field of trade union activity for revolutionary socialists are unofficial rank and file committees, have been yet again exposed as dangerous nonsense.23

Nonetheless, the AUEW/TGWU motion at the special TUC conference pledging the TUC to organise industrial action was heavily defeated. The strikes that took place in the spring of 1971 were to be the last action—official or unofficial—against the legislation until 1972.

As John Mcllroy and Alan Campbell have argued, the LCDTU walked a difficult line between mobilising for official union initiatives and encouraging independent action. For a period in 1969 against In Place of Strife, and at the end of 1970 and the start of 1971 against the Industrial Relations Act, it had been prepared to organise strike action independently of the bulk of the trade union leadership and against powerful opposition from the TUC. It was not afraid to instigate unofficial action where it perceived the possibility of mobilising minority sections of the official union movement. But the Communist Party’s overall industrial and political strategy (which embraced the reformist notion of a ­parliamentary “British road to socialism”) was not to build the Liaison Committee into a focus for coordinating rank and file activity nationally in opposition to the vacillations of the union bureaucracy. Rather, it aimed to act as a pressure group on those unions where officials friendly to the CP—for example, those who supported Scanlon in the engineering union and Jones in the transport union—were battling against the traditional right-wing:

Independence was carefully specified as the means to activate the official machinery of the unions and the TUC, not to replace it…unlike the [First World War] shop stewards’ movement…it did not privilege the rank and file or emphasise the desirability of autonomy per se; independent organisation was a means necessary to exert pressure on the official apparatus, not a substitute for it. Its sponsors embraced more limited objectives and a more optimistic view of “the bureaucracy” and existing union organisation than did their predecessors.24

Once the Industrial Relations Bill had become law the terrain changed from one of general protest against the government to intervening in specific disputes to encourage defiance of the law irrespective of the opposition of union officialdom. Its approach to the bureaucracy meant that the LCDTU/CP increasingly became hamstrung in its efforts to support and coordinate rank and file strike activity because it ran the danger of bringing them into conflict with the left leaders.25 At the LCDTU’s national conference on 24 April 1971, attended by only 700 delegates, it moved away from taking independent initiatives and urging strike action against the law, in favour of merely stiffening the official TUC and union policy of opposition. As a result, there was to be a loss of momentum, with no further calls for independent action for the remainder of the year.

Fighting against the Industrial Relations Act, 1972

Significantly, at the core of the Industrial Relations Act was a set of measures aimed at strengthening the hand of full-time union officials, making them legally responsible for the actions of their shop stewards and (in accordance with the infamous 1901 Taff Vale judgement) their funds liable to damages. By agreeing to register with a Registrar of Trade Unions (that was given the task of scrutinising their general objectives under the Act), unions were offered some limited protection from the law (for example, limiting the amount employers could sue them for). But in order to register they were obliged to alter their rule books to take away the right of stewards or district committees to take strike action without official sanction from the union nationally, and could be sued unless they could prove they had done everything in their power to prevent “illegal” strikes.26

Some national union leaders, preoccupied above all with protecting their union’s organisational machine, headquarters and financial assets, were prepared unceremoniously to abandon their previously expressed opposition to the Bill to work within the proposed new legal framework and accept its requirement that unions had to register. Yet, against the backcloth of the fightback spearheaded by the LCDTU and AUEW, many also felt under pressure to reflect the more combative rank and file mood, thereby encouraging a vote in favour of the TUC General Council’s resolution at its Special Congress in March 1971 to “strongly advise” unions not to register.

Over the summer of 1971 there was considerable growing alarm at the apparent willingness of some unions to comply with the legislation. At the TUC’s September congress Scanlon led a successful resistance to the General Council majority with a motion that now “instructed” all unions not to register (or actively to de-register).27 The generally recognised implication was that unions should not cooperate with the Act or the National Industrial Relations Court (NIRC) set up under it. However, even though by January 1972 the majority of unions had obeyed the congress instruction (albeit in some cases only after a tough internal fight), a number of important trade unions had not, some of whom were later expelled from the TUC, and no commentator at the time believed the TUC would hold the line.

The ebbs and flows of the class struggle at the time were a crucial contextual factor. Significantly, apart from the Industrial Relations Act, the Tory government’s strategy involved two other elements: the imposition of a wage norm in the public sector, by which each group of workers would receive an increase 1 percent lower than the previous one; and a laissez-faire economic policy that allowed unprofitable companies to go out of business. The latter aimed to use the fear of unemployment to force private sector workers to curb wage demands. To some extent the Tories’ offensive was successful. The number of stoppages in 1971 was down more than 40 percent on 1970, and the number of workers involved down by a third. An electricians’ union work to rule in the power industry over wages in December 1970 had been isolated and called off, and in 1971 a six-week postal workers’ strike demanding £3 a week was completely defeated, as was a nine-week Ford workers’ strike for pay parity with other car plants following the personal intervention of Scanlon and Jones.

However, the tide began to turn in the summer of 1971. Following the government’s refusal to provide further public funding to prevent Upper Clyde Shipbuilders from going bust with the loss of 6,000 of the 8,500 jobs, the workers responded (under the leadership of a Communist Party-influenced shop stewards’ committee) with a “work-in” to demand the right to work. Some 200,000 workers throughout the West of Scotland took part in two one-day strikes, with huge demonstrations through Glasgow and solidarity collections in workplaces across England, Scotland and Wales. This was followed in early 1972 by a national miners’ strike (the first since 1926) over pay that involved the extensive use of flying and mass pickets outside power stations, docks and other sites aimed at stopping the movement of coal and fuel. The rank and file militancy, which was assisted by Broad Left leadership at different levels of the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) despite right wing president Joe Gormley, climaxed at Saltley, Birmingham when 40,000 engineering and transport workers took solidarity strike action and 10,000 marched to help the miners close the coke depot. Ironically, although the emergency powers of the Industrial Relations Act, notably its cooling-off provisions, had become available for use and were considered by the Tory cabinet before the strike commenced,28 the government decided that “a ballot forced on the NUM would lead to…a continuation of the strike, and perhaps a hardening of attitudes”.29 In the event, the miners won a historic victory, spectacularly breaking through the pay restraint policy and shaking the confidence of the government.

However, the government hung on and hoped that with the full battery of provisions of the Industrial Relations Act becoming law it would help finally to bring union power to heel. Indeed, the willingness of the TUC, and union bureaucracy generally, to retreat once the NIRC began to threaten union funds was underlined in April following the National Union of Railwaymen’s (NUR) rejection of a pay recommendation and imposition of a work to rule and overtime ban. Confronted with NIRC’s activation of a statutory 14-day cooling-off period, the NUR leadership behaved (with TUC endorsement) in a way that should have led to defeat. First, they agreed to adhere to the judgement, and then when the court ordered them to organise a secret ballot to consider the employer’s offer, they again complied. It was only the determination of union members in voting by an 85 percent majority (on a near 90 percent turnout) in favour of further action that prevented a defeat and forced the government to concede a considerable wage increase.30

But a far more serious confrontation, in which a dockers’ unofficial national campaign against the introduction of shipping containerisation31 became entangled with the Industrial Relations Act, was to transform the whole situation with open defiance of the law, and ultimate humiliating defeat for the government.32 An unofficial national port shop stewards’ committee had agreed in December 1971 to fight the threat to jobs from containerisation and a one-day unofficial national strike in January 1972 received widespread support. The dock stewards’ method of fighting was to mount pickets outside inland container depots and cold stores, and to “black” lorry firms whose lorries refused to respect the picket lines. In response, the companies involved sought to gain injunctions against so-called “unfair industrial practice” from the National Industrial Relations Court.

The first NIRC order was granted to Heaton Transport, St Helens, against the TGWU over its members’ action in the Liverpool docks. Although the union initially boycotted the NIRC (in line with TUC policy), it was fined £5,000 for disobeying the court’s order. When the blacking continued, despite attempts by TGWU officials to plead with the dockers to halt any further action, Heaton returned to the NIRC, which then imposed a £50,000 fine.33 With the threat of sequestration of its assets hanging over the TGWU (for its contempt of court), the TUC General Council’s “inner cabinet”, the Finance and General Purposes Committee (F&GPC), voted in late April to advise the union to pay the fine (and hence to recognise the court and drop its principled stance agreed only six months before). Even with its left wing general secretary Jack Jones now supporting the TUC decision to comply with the law, the TGWU’s executive council only agreed by the chair’s casting vote on 1 May. It appeared as if the Tories had got away with changing the framework within which trade union organisations operated.

What decisively altered this picture was the activity of rank and file dockers who, far from agreeing to lift the blacking, now extended their picketing across the country. But unexpectedly on 13 June the Court of Appeal (under Lord Denning) reversed the NIRC judgement in the Heaton case, affirming the TGWU’s case that unions were not responsible for the actions of their stewards and that they had done all they reasonably could to carry out the court’s orders and repudiate the action. Ironically with the fine set aside, it destroyed the government’s strategy of forcing unions to discipline their own members and opened the way to legal sanctions against individual workers continuing to engage in “unlawful action”. Initially three London dock shop stewards picketing the Chobham Farm container depot in Stratford, east London, were threatened with imprisonment if they did not attend the NIRC on 16 June to explain their conduct. The dockers’ national shop stewards’ committee called for an indefinite national strike if any of the three were imprisoned, and unofficial strikes broke out at most ports. A large picket assembled at Chobham Farm but no arrests took place—instead the official solicitor (a crown officer few had ever heard of) suddenly appeared and got the government off the hook by setting aside the committals on a technicality.

Amid continuing picketing, Midland Cold Storage owned by the giant Vestey Corporation, one of the world’s largest meat companies, was next in line to apply to the NIRC. On Friday 21 July 1972 the court obliged by issuing arrest warrants that led to the incarceration in Pentonville Prison of five London dockers for contempt of court. Against the background of an unofficial national stoppage of 35,000 dockers and widespread outrage inside the trade union movement generally, the TUC General Council came under intense pressure to call action, but dragged their feet for five days before finally doing so. Their eventual decision to call a one-day national strike has sometimes been accorded the status of being the key factor in the dockers’ release.34

Yet earlier in June, against the backdrop of the threatened imprisonment of three pickets at Chobham, the TUC’s F&GPC had considered that “a policy of using industrial action to compel the present government to repeal the Act would not be effective”. It noted that “there will be outbursts of industrial action and other hostile demonstrations, which neither unions themselves nor the TUC will be able to restrain”, but there was “no evidence that the affiliated unions have reached the point where they would be prepared to hand over to the General Council the authority to use the strike weapon for what in fact would be a political purpose”.35 Now in July, with the imprisonment of the Pentonville Five, Vic Feather publicly argued against a general strike. Even Jack Jones made it clear that no assistance was to be given by the TGWU and its officials were not to visit the men, although the union representing three of the pickets, the small National Amalgamated Stevedores and Dockers (NASD), made their strike official.

It was only the dockers’ own unofficial national stoppage of 35,000 workers combined with their appeal for immediate solidarity action from other workers and the growing support for the unofficial/official strike movement that developed that forced the TUC General Council’s and TGWU’s hand. Dockers’ delegations persuaded key groups in Fleet Street to stop the national newspapers over the weekend, and other groups of workers walked out on strike across the country over the next few days. While these numbered only 250,000 at most (partly because many industries had closed down for summer holidays) and involved just one or two days of action (with longer strikes threatened if the men were not released quickly), a momentum began to develop. Sheffield engineers, Heathrow airport workers, London bus workers, construction workers on different sites, and many other groups of workers across the country took strike action.36 A solidarity demonstration in London on the Tuesday was 30,000 strong.

The importance of the strike wave was much greater than the actual numbers involved might indicate. The strikes challenged not only the authority of the official union leaderships, but also that of the judicial system and the government. In the process they challenged the British labourist tradition of keeping trade union activity separate from politics.37

In spite of the LCDTU’s circumscribed role since the independently initiated strikes of the previous year, the body’s supporters organised around the Communist Party (with a claimed membership at the time of about 29,000) were to be a prominent force in arguing for a one-day strike by the TUC. A national LCDTU conference previously held on 10 June (with 1,265 delegates from 500 organisations), at the time of the unofficial picketing action and threat of imprisonment at Chobham, had heard sharp denunciations of the headlong retreat of the bulk of the leadership of the trade union movement that had left the dockers isolated in defiance. The conference declared its intention to organise solidarity action in the event of further legal intervention. However, rather than provide any independent lead, it had merely demanded union leaders ignore the Act and organise solidarity action when it was used, with national industrial action on the day of a recalled Congress or the September TUC.

But if the strike movement that subsequently followed the arrest of the five dockers and their imprisonment in Pentonville has sometimes been portrayed as semi-spontaneous,38 the LCDTU’s appeal to affiliated bodies, calling for the implementation of its conference decision to take and extend the solidarity industrial action “until it reaches the proportions of a general strike and the trade union leadership is compelled to make it official”, should not be ignored or downplayed.39 Certainly it was Communist Party militants, armed with this LCDTU appeal, who were to be instrumental on the ground (alongside much smaller left wing organisations such as the International Socialists) in encouraging their members and much broader ranks of LCDTU supporters at both grassroots and official union levels to initiate or back stoppages in many workplaces across the country, with the momentum accelerating each day. In the process, in certain contexts full-time official union approval contributed to the legitimatisation of action. For example Kevin Halpin, LCDTU chair, recalls that he travelled to Scotland to appeal for support from the TGWU’s Regional Secretary, Raymond McDonald, who promised he would bring out his union members. When Halpin asked him “How would he do it?…He just pointed to the phone and said that would do…[His] action was as good as his word. Scotland stopped. He must have had enormous power”.40

At the TUC’s F&GPC on the afternoon of Monday 24 July some members argued for a “national one-day stoppage of work”, particularly because it was feared “if the General Council did not themselves take action of this kind unofficial bodies would assume leadership”. At a meeting of the TUC General Council on Wednesday 26 July it was reported that “the House of Lords would, that morning, give their decision on the appeal, and following that the Official Solicitor would probably go to the NIRC”, thereby leading to the dockers’ release. It was in this context that the meeting agreed to a motion moved by Scanlon that called on “all affiliated unions to organise a one-day stoppage of work and demonstrations on Monday next July 31”.41

All the participants at the meeting denied it was a call for a “general strike”. Vic Feather disingenuously said that “any suggestion that the one-day stoppage could be construed as a political general strike could be dismissed quickly”; it would merely be a “protest stoppage of work”. Even Scanlon distanced himself from an openly political stance and insisted there was no intention of “seeking a confrontation with the government”. Moreover, all participants at the meeting knew that with moves afoot to release the dockers that day its call for action would be unnecessary and not need to be translated into practice.

As predicted, on the same morning that the TUC issued its strike call, the Law Lords held an unprecedented morning sitting and overturned the Court of Appeal’s previous ruling to declare that industrial action in defiance of a court order was, after all, the responsibility of national unions, not individual shop stewards. Thanks to the judiciary extricating themselves from the rapidly escalating industrial unrest in this fashion, the official solicitor was then able that afternoon to secure the release of the five dockers from prison (with the Law Lords re-imposing the fines on the TGWU). The threatened one-day stoppage was called off. It was a magnificent victory for working class militancy, with strikes and solidarity action that were clearly political (whatever TUC leaders on both right and left might have argued) spectacularly defeating both the government and the “rule of law”.42 As Lord Denning, the senior judge of the Court of Appeal, later acknowledged: “The political consequences were immense. The Industrial Relations Act had been shattered. The government had set up the Industrial Relations Court to enforce the Act. Yet it had been shown by events to be powerless”.43

Engineering union strikes, 1972-74

Despite this stunning victory, this was by no means the end of the Industrial Relations Act as is often assumed. In fact, by the end of 1972 the NIRC was back in action, instructing the AUEW to admit back into the union a man, James Goad, who had been expelled some years before for strike-breaking by his local branch in Sudbury, Suffolk. The union was fined £5,000 for refusing to comply with the court order, followed by a further £50,000 for its defiance. This prompted protest strike action by Sheffield, London and Oxford AUEW districts on 18 December 1972 involving some 55,000 engineers. Two days later on 20 December there was an effective national AUEW stoppage, with some 170,000 workers responding to strike calls from shop stewards’ and district committees, and with backing from local union officials.

In 1973 the NIRC continued its attacks on the AUEW with a punitive fine of £75,000 for the union’s refusal to call off a strike for recognition at a small engineering company, Con Mech, in Woking, Surrey, after the company had successfully applied for a court order. It led to a strike by tens of thousands of workers across the country on 5 November, with more local stoppages on 12 and 19 November, led by AUEW district committees, after which £100,000 of the union’s assets were sequestrated. Notwithstanding the miners’ second victory over the Tories and the return of a Labour government in February 1974, the NIRC attempted to impose yet another fine of £47,000 in damages to Con Mech, which the AUEW refused to pay, bringing about the final showdown.

With the union now faced with the sequestration of all its assets, the Broad Left took the initiative in encouraging the Executive Council to take the dramatic decision to call indefinite strike action of all the union’s members, on 8 May issuing the famous instruction: “All members of the engineering section without exception should withdraw their labour forthwith.” In response, up and down the country engineering workers immediately downed tools, with some sections even stopping on the night of 7 May just on the basis of radio news bulletins announcing the forthcoming action. An estimated 500,000 workers joined the strike, with solidarity strikes elsewhere, including the national newspaper industry. But after eight hours of all-out action an anonymous group of business figures had paid the fine, despite the president of the NIRC’s previous insistence that he would not accept such a payment. It marked the final end of the Industrial Relations Act, which was then belatedly repealed by the Labour government.

Significantly, the LCDTU played little role in the continuing resistance to the Industrial Relations Act in 1973 and 1974, the brunt of which was borne by the strikes called by the AUEW against NIRC judgements. Moreover the result of the Communist Party’s uncritical support for Scanlon was to demobilise its membership and supporters in the engineering sit-ins that took place in Greater Manchester in the spring of 1972.44 Nonetheless, the AUEW’s role in helping to smash the Act demonstrated the central role of the CP and the Broad Left inside the AUEW—both in terms of rank and file activists and in winning official union support for action to defy the law. It justified the stance of those who argued that one-day token stoppages against the Act, while excellent, were not in themselves going to bury the legislation, and that the rank and file would respond to militant all-out strike action, particularly when it was the union officially that was calling on them to take action.45

Relevance for today

In summary, this historical review of the fight against the anti-union legislation of the late 1960s and early 1970s has shown that the bulk of the official leadership of the unions generally attempted to make every effort to reach some sort of compromise with governments and continually sought to side-track and divert any militant rank and file responses into safer directions. But if the legislative threats were primarily defeated as a result of rank and file action, taken in defiance of the union bureaucracy at key moments, there was also a complex dynamic at work involving a significant level of official support (mainly at local but also at national level) in some left-led unions for strikes which fed back into the process, with unofficial action also promoted through official channels. In this process the political and organisational role of the CP, LCDTU, and AUEW Broad Left (among others) was instrumental.

Of course, we cannot simply transplant past experience onto the present given the changed context in which workers’ organisation has been considerably weakened. Over the last 30 years the unrelenting neoliberal offensive, succession of workers’ defeats in the 1980s, continuing collapse in strike activity, rapid decline of union membership, and undermining of the strength and vitality of workplace union organisation, have all taken their toll. During the late 1960s and early 1970s the high level of workers’ struggle encouraged the development of strong shop stewards’ organisations that were combative in their relationship to employers and the government, which in turn encouraged the rank and file to act independently of the officials and sometimes in open defiance. In the period since, the weakening of reps organisation has meant that the rank and file have become more dependent on officials.46 Yet arguably, despite the relative considerable weaknesses of workplace trade unionism today compared to the 1960s and 1970s, the essential features of the interplay between the rank and file and union bureaucracy, and between unofficial and official action, are still potentially highly relevant to today in trying to encourage a fightback, albeit with a different balance between the two elements.

Simon Joyce argues that the Socialist Workers Party’s emphasis on the “lack of confidence” among workers to fight independently of the union bureaucracy as an explanation for the continuing low level of strike action in the UK is inadequate (given the massive structural changes in the economy, anti-union legislation, workers’ defeats and institutional changes which have militated against workers’ struggles). But this effectively throws the baby out with the bathwater by diminishing the role of the trade union bureaucracy as a crucial factor in the equation.47 In fact, it is the union bureaucracy that bears the main responsibility for failing effectively to mobilise workers against the employers and government over many years in defence of wages, conditions and jobs, and thereby directly contributing to the low levels of strike activity and the weakened state of workplace unionism. While it is true employers have been able to invalidate some individual strike ballots with the threat or use of court injunctions (albeit most ballots have not been subject to such legal sanction), the use of anti-union legislation to intimidate unions into submission has primarily been possible because of the unwillingness of union leaders to mount resistance.

This is not to suggest that because workers have been very much on the defensive, the mood is one dominated by widespread demoralisation. On the contrary, there is much evidence to suggest that when the union bureaucracy does give a lead many workers are prepared to fight. The enthusiasm and willingness of many thousands of workers to respond to official calls for action that we have witnessed over the last few years, from TUC demonstrations to strike activity (recently manifested among Scottish FE lecturers and dockers in Grangemouth), are clear illustrations of this process. Official calls for action have opened up the space for rank and file confidence and organisation to grow and develop.

Moreover, there is a widespread anti-austerity feeling inside the working class and a desire to defend the NHS. There is huge support when people see someone fighting back. The election of Jeremy Corbyn as Labour leader (who has publicly opposed the anti-union legislation and pledged to repeal it if Labour win office), the scale of the demonstrations such as the recent Stand Up to Racism march of 20,000 and People’s Assembly march of 250,000, as well as the support displayed around the recent junior doctors’ strikes and teachers’ campaign against school academisation, have been repeated signs of the highly politicised nature of the mood. They show the potential to fight (and win) if clear leadership is provided.

Alas, with the stalling of the public sector pensions battle of 2011-12 through to the Tata steel jobs crisis of this year, the union bureaucracy has once again wasted the potential to encourage action, or only half-heartedly organised action, that could resist attacks from the employers and government and help rebuild the strength of the unions in the process. Some union leaders clearly either do not want a fight or believe that strike action, even on the scale of 30 November 2011 which involved more than 2 million workers, cannot win. They persist with a pessimistic outlook that insists workers are not prepared to fight. But the problem is that, even though we would ideally like to see a militant national rank and file movement that could act independently of the union bureaucracy, the current reality is that in most situations rank and file workers do indeed often “lack the confidence” to take action without an official union lead, and activists on the ground have been unable to bridge this gap (except in a few notable local cases over recent months, such as the Glasgow homelessness caseworkers, SOAS university in London, postal workers in Somerset, and offshore workers on Shell’s North Sea Shearwater platform). What this means therefore, whether we like it or not, is that trade union officials are actually very important to whether struggles take place at all and, if they do take place, how they develop.48

In respect to the Tories’ anti-union legislation, last year’s TUC conference offered qualified support for “generalised strikes” should legal action be taken against any affiliate in connection with the new laws, and Unite’s rulebook was changed to enable it to support strikes by their members whether they are legal or not. However, it remains to be seen whether such militant rhetoric is matched by action in practice with the implementation of the Trade Union Act. In a context in which strike action without the support of a legal ballot that meets the imposed thresholds would leave the unions exposed to injunctions, damages, claims and even action for contempt of court, it seems unlikely that either the TUC or individual union leaders will openly defy the law unless they are subject to enormous pressure from below. Instead there is a strong pull to shift the political focus away from the industrial struggle towards securing the Labour Party’s victory at the next general election.

Nonetheless, it is important to note that a clear differentiation has emerged inside the union bureaucracy, with a layer of left union leaders—including figures such as the FBU’s Matt Wrack, PCS’s Mark Serwotka and BFAWU’s Ian Hodson—identifying themselves with a call for organising and mobilising workers around fighting the legislation and raising the idea of defying the law when it is applied. In the process, sections of left union officialdom have grouped around the Trade Union Coordinating Group (TUCG) of unions,49 and worked alongside Unite the Resistance (UtR) and the National Shop Stewards’ Network in organising big protest meetings in parliament and evening demonstrations against the passing of the Bill.

This has been an important development that has opened up the space for revolutionaries and the left to work alongside bigger forces. Moreover, it is precisely because of the overall lack of confidence among rank and file workers to act outside of official union channels that calls for action from above from left wing union leaders make it easier for activists on the ground to build workers’ confidence and combativity in the workplace. Such “official” calls for action could provide a minority pole of attraction in galvanising solidarity if and when a national union or groups of workers find themselves in dispute, or pickets’ activities are criminalised. Likewise, in a more limited fashion, Broad Left organisations inside unions, and anti-austerity political networks around Corbyn could also help to create networks of solidarity for those workers who fight back.

Unquestionably such developments are very limited compared to the late 1960s and early 1970s—they do not have the industrial breadth, roots and weight of the LCDTU with its links to union officialdom (notably within a major union like the AUEW) and the political left of every hue today is a fragment of its previous size, implantation and influence. Nonetheless, revolutionaries should seek every opportunity to work with as wide a layer of left officials to build resistance to the anti-union legislation and in support of workers who come into conflict with it, in the process putting pressure on the leadership of other larger unions, such as Unison and the GMB.

Let’s be absolutely clear, this does not mean abandoning the SWP’s strategic rank and file orientation in favour of a reliance on the bureaucracy. As we have seen, the Communist Party-influenced LCDTU’s attempt to give a lead to independent rank and file militancy increasingly clashed with its aim of cultivating influence among left wing officials, with the former being increasingly subordinated to the latter. The historical lesson is that the SWP needs to retain its absolute political clarity: left union officials, despite their potential willingness to support workers’ defiance of the Tories’ anti-union legislation are (by virtue of their material position, social role and status) part and parcel of the union bureaucracy as a whole (like their mainstream and right wing counterparts). Therefore, given the common pressures to which they are subject to ultimately subordinate workers’ struggles within the confines of the system and its laws, they can never be relied upon. This means revolutionaries should not be encouraging left officials who want to take the fight forward to join alliances with networks of rank and file activists by simply tailing them and acting as opportunist cheerleaders.

But neither should we simply denounce, downplay or ignore their influence, in the process absolving them of any responsibility for the task of attempting to encourage workers to fight back. In the light of the fact that there is always an interplay between official and unofficial action, the aim should be to take whatever opportunities are available to utilise the official structures of the union movement to act as a catalyst for increasing the potential scale of workers’ resistance and thereby provide a more favourable context for the rebuilding of strong rank and file organisation and networks that are ultimately capable of fighting independently of any section of the trade union bureaucracy.50 This means building networks of rank and file militants who can work in varying degrees sometimes with trade union officials and sometimes against them. As Paul McGarr has commented:

there is a constant and simultaneous process of working alongside and with the bureaucracy while at the same time having a tension and opposition to it. Getting this balance right is a difficult art, and one of the biggest challenges facing socialist activists in the unions today. But it is crucial in seeking to extend the influence of socialists over workers who look to the bureaucracy, especially its more left elements…

In seeking to practise this art we need…to do two things simultaneously. One is to articulate the voice of and seek to organise the minority who want to fight, and are clear about the limitations of the bureaucracy, including its left wing. The second is simultaneously to relate to those (greater numbers) of workers still influenced by the bureaucracy, and seek to work with, influence and win them—this necessarily involves relating to the bureaucracy and especially the left bureaucracy in a serious way.51

Prospects for resistance to the Tories’ anti-union legislation

Although the Trade Union Act represents a massive attack on the trade unions, it does not make union resistance, including strikes, impossible. Clearly union laws are only effective if unions obey them, and as we have seen in the late 1960s and early 1970s mass industrial action and unions defying the laws could potentially make them unworkable. By contrast, Thatcher’s anti-union legislation, which involved six separate pieces of legislation (including the requirement for a secret postal ballot before taking strike action, making strike action in support of other workers illegal, restricting the number of pickets to six, and giving employers the right to obtain injunctions against unions and sue them for damages) was introduced against the backcloth of union defeats by civil servants, steel workers, printers and the miners, defeats which seriously sapped the confidence of a generation of union activists. It led to a “new realism” among trade union leaders who subsequently sought social partnership. The result was a massive slump in union membership and strike activity, a retreat that was slowed but not entirely halted under the New Labour government of 1987-2010 or coalition government of 2010-2015. So it is against this background that today’s Conservative government are seeking once again to restrict union rights. But there are some reasons to suggest the path ahead may be full of unexpected difficulties.

As Martin Upchurch has argued, while strike levels are very low there may be less of a feel of recent defeat among union members than previously in the 1980s, and the case for moderation and social partnership in an era of relentless austerity is less convincing.52 As we have noted, there is a significant broad current of ideological and organisational opposition to austerity. In addition, the nature of the new legislation differs from its Thatcherite predecessors in two ways. First, unlike Thatcher’s salami tactics, taking unions on one by one and introducing piecemeal anti-union legislation in incremental stages, the Trade Union Act (even if a shadow of the Bill first proposed) attacks many different facets of trade union activity and organisation, and is potentially more likely to be resisted as a result and in a fashion which leads to a more political defiance of the government. Second, previous trade union laws have been targeted primarily at the trade union leaders, with a view to them policing their members into line under the threat of fines, sequestration, etc. By contrast the Trade Union Act takes aim to some degree at least at workplace/branch union representation (notably through the increased powers given to the Certification Officer), as well as picketing activity (that requires the appointment of picketing supervisors who make themselves known to police and employers and carry a note of authorisation). This runs the risk of opening up opportunities for resistance at a local level, one step removed from the union officials, and may result in rank and file union activists being more confident to encourage defiance of the law.

No doubt unions generally will become more consciously strategic, by only balloting those groups of workers who they can be confident would attain the participation and/or majority support thresholds. This might mean identifying particularly powerful groups within a national bargaining unit (grades or workplaces) whose action could then be supported financially by other members and sections. Paradoxically, where unions succeed in attaining the new thresholds, it may make it harder for employers to resolve/defeat strikes. It could lift union members’ expectations, make union negotiating positions stronger, strengthen the case for intensive or prolonged action rather than relying on a few hours or days of action, produce less willingness to call strikes off and settle swiftly, and make the price of an eventual settlement higher.

Another likely prospect is an increased tactical reliance by unions on so-called “leverage campaigns” and “citizen bargaining”—whereby unions use demonstrations, protests, boycotts and social media campaigns to open up new lines of attack on the employers and senior management, with the aim of getting shareholders, customers, suppliers and local communities to pressure the employers to back union demands. In the face of the tightening of the rules on industrial action, such campaigns are likely to increasingly become a “weapon of choice” for the unions, although their limitations are also likely to be stark compared to the alternative mechanisms of collective bargaining and the threat/use of strike action within the workplace.

It is also possible that, against the backcloth of a new wave of spending cuts affecting pensions, jobs, pay and working conditions, some groups of workers coming into collision with the legal liabilities of organising strike ballots will take unofficial and wildcat strike action, thereby undermining the legislation. As the Financial Times has commented: “the government should be wary of making it so hard to call an official strike that public employees feel victimised, and justified in taking unofficial action”.53 In this sense we should recognise the element of unpredictability and possibility of flare-ups and sudden explosions of resistance that can occur.

The most obvious routes to unofficial action at either local or national level would be where workers achieve a simple majority ballot vote but fail marginally to meet the new thresholds, when their union refuses to organise a ballot for fear of not meeting the thresholds, or when they walk out on strike without waiting for their union to organise a ballot because of the immediacy of the issue (such as discipline or dismissal). On the one hand, it is possible the initiative could come from grassroots members in so-called wildcat action (“unofficial unofficial”). But even though the union might officially repudiate such unofficial action, some union officials could offer informal nod and wink encouragement and support (“official unofficial”) as occurred with the engineering construction workers’ strikes in 2009.54 It should be noted that action of this kind would be “unlawful” but not necessarily “illegal” unless employers sought and obtained court injunctions, which they might well avoid so as not further to inflame a potentially combustible dispute.

Either way such unofficial action—or if a national union was attacked under the legislation—would raise the possibility of broader union support for those who found themselves brushing up against or outside the law, with any solidarity strike action itself potentially coming up against Thatcher’s removal of immunities for strikes that go beyond workers’ own immediate employers. This raises the need to prepare the ground now for building the contours of local networks—linked to bodies such as the TUCG and UtR involving left union officials—that can provide solidarity, generalise examples of resistance, and help to push forward any bigger upsurge in struggle.

In campaigning against the anti-union laws we also have to campaign for unions to make their organisations seem worth defending, not merely in terms of the right to organise and strike, but also by encouraging a fighting unionism that demonstrates its relevance and value to workers and what is at stake in resisting the legislation. This needs to be combined with the attempt to bring political issues into play, linking the fight over immediate bread and butter issues and the anti-union laws with a wider defence of public services and communities and in political opposition to the government’s austerity agenda generally. In this, the political networks around Corbyn, the defence of refugees, Stand up to Racism, opposition to Trident, etc can all play a role in taking up issues of solidarity and workers’ defiance of the law specifically and the Tories generally.

Ralph Darlington is professor of employment relations at the University of Salford and author of Radical Unionism: The Rise and Fall of Revolutionary Syndicalism (2013).


1 Darlington and Dobson, 2015.

2 Lyddon, 2015a and 2015b; O’Brien, 2014; 2015.

3 Taylor, 1993, p163.

4 Taylor, 2000, p169.

5 The CP had some significant influence within higher levels of the official machinery of a number of different unions, including regional bodies, national executives and some full-time officials, for example within the TGWU, Construction Engineering section of the AUEW, the Sheet Metal Workers, Furniture Trade Workers, the train drivers’ union ASLEF, all-grades railway NUR, building workers’ UCATT, miners’ NUM, draughtsmen’s DATA (or AUEW-TASS as it became known after amalgamation within the AUEW in 1970), and firefighters’ FBU. Its most successful union was the AUEW, in which by the early 1970s it had significant influence on the national committee, assistant general secretaryships’ and national organisers’ posts, and at divisional and district levels in some areas (Mcllroy, 1999, pp225-236). At the same time the CP’s national industrial organiser, Bert Ramelson, had extensive links with left officials across the trade union movement (Seifert and Sibley, 2012).

6 Mcllroy, 1999, pp242-243; Mcllroy and Campbell, 1999, pp9-14; Darlington and Lyddon, 2001, pp17-18.

7 Halpin, 2012, pp93 and 95.

8 Seifert and Sibley, 2012, pp114 and 116.

9 Taylor, 1993, p168.

10 Darlington and Lyddon, 2001, p18.

11 Harman, 1988, p236.

12 Hyman, 1973, p109.

13 Jacobs, 1970, p243.

14 Moran, 1977, p115

15 Mcllroy, 1999, p244.

16 Moran, 1977, p115.

17 Darlington and Lyddon, 2001, p19.

18 Thornett, 1987, pp195-198.

19 Cited in Mcllroy and Campbell, 1999, p12.

20 McIlroy, 1999, p12.

21 Undy, 1979, p19.

22 Deason, 1975, p8.

23 Cliff, 1971, p33.

24 Mcllroy and Campbell, 1999, p25.

25 Harman, 1988, pp237-238. It should also be noted that some CP local union officials undoubtedly felt under pressure from their position within the union machinery to avoid putting themselves into conflict with their own unions’ leaders. Moreover ,the Broad Left orientation on winning influence in official union structures often predominated over mobilising activity among rank and file workers. One reflection of such dilemmas was evident in the AUEW when only a handful of engineering factories in the Manchester area participated in the 1 May 1969 LCDTU strike against In Place of Strife despite the CP enjoying strong influence within the local full-time official union apparatus and District Committee.

26 Sparks, 1982, p17.

27 The government sought to counter the TUC’s policy by automatically transferring unions who were already registered with the Registrar of Friendly Societies to a new register.

28 The final sections of the Act outlawing, among other things, secondary boycotts and blacking of supplies, did not become operative until the day the miners returned to work on 28 February 1972.

29 Thatcher, 1995, p216.

30 Darlington and Lyddon, 2001, pp75-93.

31 A process that threatened to divert work from well-paid and organised docks into container depots and cold stores employing badly paid and unorganised workers.

32 Darlington and Lyddon, 2001; 2003, pp120-121.

33 Moran, 1977, pp138-140; Jones, 1986, pp246-249.

34 For example, see Taylor, 1993, p202.

35 Darlington and Lyddon, 2003, p130.

36 Lindop, 1998, p85.

37 Darlington and Lyddon, 2001, p167.

38 Coates, 1973, p18.

39 Mcllroy and Campbell, 1999, p19.

40 Halpin, 2012, p122.

41 Darlington and Lyddon, 2001, p173.

42 Darlington and Lyddon, 2001, pp169-175.

43 Denning, 1983, p177.

44 Deason, 1975, pp11-12; Darlington and Lyddon, 2001, pp95-134 and 226-227.

45 Sparks, 1978, p18.

46 Darlington, 2010; 2014.

47 Joyce, 2015.

48 Darlington, 2014, pp57-58.

49 Including BFAWU, FBU, NAPO, NUJ, NUT, PCS, POA, RMT and URTU—the United Road Transport Union.

50 Darlington, 2014.

51 McGarr, 2016, p111.

52 Upchurch, 2015.

53 Financial Times, 2015.

54 Gall, 2012, pp419-420.


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