Latest post on Left Futures

Labour militancy at a turning point?

The number of industrial disputes in Britain rose in the latest 12-month period. Just under 1.4 million days were lost in various actions. By far the most important of these was the November co-ordinated day of action on pensions, which account for just under 1million of the total days lost.

The level of disputes can be seen in context from the chart below, which shows monthly days lost from 1979 to April of this year, the most recent data. Nearly 1.4mn is a big increase on the previous 12-month period, where just over 150,000 days were lost. But that total was the lowest 12-month for days lost since official ONS records begin in January 1931.

At the same time, it is nothing like a return to the labour militancy of earlier decades. In the comparable period of 1984-1985 covering the miners’ strike, a total of over 26million working days were lost. Even after Thatcher had broken the NUM and with it the leading edge of industrial militancy in Britain there were around 5 million days lost to disputes in 1989, with other relatively high levels of disputes recorded in the 1980s and early 1990s. That is a considerably higher level of industrial combativity than was recorded in the most recent 12 months.

In the longer historical perspective, nearly 7 million days were lost in 1931, in the midst of the Depression and after the failure of the General Strike. The level of industrial disputes was frequently greater during WWII than in the last 12 months. So the latest upturn is very far from being a new height of militancy in Britain.

Instead, it is possible to say that the long downtrend of declining militancy may have been broken. A turning point may have been reached. If so, the latest partial reversal of that decline in industrial disputes owes a great deal to the willingness of the various trade unions and their leaderships to co-ordinate activity on November 30 in 2011. That followed the TUC’s March for Jobs, Growth and Justice in March last year.

Now the focus is on building the this year. The whole of the workforce is struggling with the effects of lower real incomes, cuts in social provisions, the threat of job losses and rising inequalities. The debate can open up as to what is ‘a future that works’. But the immediate task ahead is to build for the biggest possible turnout on October 20 and look for the renewed co-ordination that can turn the rise in labour militancy from a one-off into a trend.

Comments are closed.

© 2024 Left Futures | Powered by WordPress | theme originated from PrimePress by Ravi Varma