H&P's Trade Union and Employment Forum meets several times a year, bringing together trade unionists with professional historians and other interested groups. It considers trade union issues against their historical background, exploring different perspectives on the past and the present in order to suggest new lines of policy for the future.
Its regular meetings have covered such themes as: political funding and relations with the main political parties; attitudes towards the European Union; democracy in the workplace; and apprenticeship and training. It has also organised higher-profile events to mark the anniversaries of pivotal moments, such as the 1986 Wapping dispute in the printing industry, and the 1984 miners’ strike. When the opportunity presents itself, the Forum works in partnership with other organizations, including a session at the Unions 21 annual conference and a fringe event at the Trades Union Congress.
We are always keen to hear from potential participants, co-organizers and sponsors. If you or your organization would like to be involved, please contact one of the Management Committee.
Lord David Lea (formerly TUC Deputy General Secretary) threw stimulating light on the background to the sudden switch of the TUC to a pro-European position in 1988, while John Edmonds (formerly GMB General Secretary) provided an evaluation of the longer-term advantages and disadvantages for trade unionism in Britain.
Lord David Lea (formerly TUC Deputy General Secretary) recalled his role in the run-up to the Bullock Report of 1977 which had raised many issues about democracy still relevant today, while Professor Peter Ackers raised questions about other options even within the mainstream of academic industrial relations at the time.
Dr Alastair Reid introduced his new book on the history of British shipbuilding, The Tide of Democracy, by emphasizing the economic benefits of clustering many medium-sized firms in the same district, which had profound implications for the skills and unionization of the workforce.
Professor Paul Ryan argued that British employers have been too prone to providing mediocre training and exploiting opportunities for cheap youth labour, while Lord Tony Young (then Minister for Skills and Apprenticeship) defended the quality of training offered by the Labour Government's Modern Apprentices Scheme.
Dr Jim Moher suggested that Walter Osborne's campaign in the 1900s shed important light on individual/collective tensions over the trade union political levy, while Tony Dubbins (Trade Unions for Labour) argued that the unions were still a popular voluntary force which were not treated with sufficient respect in reviews of party funding.
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H&P is an expanding Partnership based at King's College London and the University of Cambridge, and additionally supported by the University of Bristol, the University of Edinburgh, the University of Leeds, the Open University, and the University of Sheffield.
We are the only project in the UK providing access to an international network of more than 500 historians with a broad range of expertise. H&P offers a range of resources for historians, policy makers and journalists.