Trade Union and Industry Forum


The future of UK labour law

Trade Union Forum


After a century of self-regulation and light legal control of industrial relations, Britain swung to a much tighter state-regulated system from the early 1980s. These laws were most one-sided and restrictive of trade unions and their activities, both during disputes and in terms of their internal governance. They remained so despite three terms of Labour government from the late 1990s (though significant improvement of employee rights occurred then). They were overlaid by more progressive EU Directives in the 2000s, especially as regards employee equality rights.

With the triggering of Britain's departure from the EU, it is surely time to revisit this entire framework of law. This Trade Union Forum event explored the possibility of a 'root and branch' examination of the origins of British Labour law from the repeal of the Combination laws (1824/5) through to the strengthening of union rights (1870s to 1906) and on to the severe restrictions of those rights in the 1980s.

Speakers in this seminar were:

  • Dr Adrian Williamson, The Age of Voluntarism? Trade Union law and practice 1914-1979
  • Dr Jim Moher, From Repression to the 'Great Charter of Union Rights' - the Combination Laws to the Trade Disputes Act 1906
  • Professor Richard Whiting, The Thatcher reforms of the 1980s
  • Sarah Veale, Manifesto for a comprehensive revision of workers' rights

Read organiser Dr Jim Moher's complete report from this seminar here. (PDF)


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