Introduction: Whose Union? Power and Bureaucracy in the Labour Movement

  • Edmund Heery
  • Patricia Fosh

Abstract

Since the formation of permanent trade unions by skilled artisans in the nineteenth century, the relationship between unions and their members has been a perennial subject of social inquiry and political debate. Repeatedly scholars have examined the tensions which result from collective representation through permanent organizations and have questioned the representativeness and effectiveness of unions as vehicles for advancing workers’ interests. The need for this collection arises, we believe, because these questions have been given a new relevance by the economic, political and ideological shifts of the last decade. The Conservative government, for example, has framed its programme of legal intervention into union affairs at least partly on the assumption that union leaders are unrepresentative and insufficiently accountable to their members. Employers, too, have displayed a new interest in techniques such as profit-sharing and employee involvement which, according to some commentators, will reduce worker attachment to unions and possibly eliminate the demand for independent representation altogether. And finally, within the unions the deeply ingrained suspicion of officialdom among activists has fused with a newer feminist critique which points to the neglect of women workers’ interests by the union hierarchy.

Keywords

Europe Income Expense Hunt Kelly 

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Copyright information

© British Sociological Association 1990

Authors and Affiliations

  • Edmund Heery
  • Patricia Fosh

There are no affiliations available

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