The Myths of Trade Union Power

  • Robert Taylor


There is a widespread belief in Britain that the trade unions are overmighty subjects with enormous power and privileges that they use irresponsibly. In a poll carried out by Market Opinion and Research International in August 1977 as many as 79 per cent of the sample agreed that the unions had too much power (54 per cent thought so ‘strongly’ and the others ‘tended’ to agree). Three years later (July 1980) the same survey organisation found there had been a drop in the proportion who thought the unions were too powerful. Now 72 per cent of the sample believed this (42 per cent thought so ‘strongly’ and 30 per cent said they tended to agree). No doubt, the change of government in May 1979 and the loss of direct influence by the TUC on Mrs Thatcher’s Downing Street, and the retirement of major union leaders — Jack Jones of the Transport and General Workers and Hugh Scanlon of the Engineering Workers-must account for this small decline. Maybe the deepening recession began to make people aware that the unions had no power to ensure job security or determine overall economic policy.


Trade Union Industrial Relation Union Membership Labour Party Trade Dispute 
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Notes and References

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    Lord Denning, The Discipline of Law (Butterworths, 1979) p. 191.Google Scholar
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    The Changing Contours of British Industrial Relations, ed. W. Brown (Basil Blackwell, 1981) p. 73.Google Scholar
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    I. Crewe, B. Sarlvik and J. Alt, ‘Partisan Dealignment in Britain 1964–1974’, British Journal of Political Science, Vol. 7, Part 2, April 1977, pp. 179–80.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
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    G. Goodman, The Awkward Warrior: Frank Cousins — His Life and Times, (Davis-Poynter, 1979), p. 355.Google Scholar
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    A. Flanders, Management and Unions (Faber & Faber, 1975) p. 293.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Robert Taylor 1982

Authors and Affiliations

  • Robert Taylor

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