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Political and Sociological Aspects of Economics Supervision 04
Essay Why did strike activities in Britain decline so substantially in the 1980s and 1990s?
The 1970s were the peak of strike activities in Britain, with 12.9 million working days lost in the period 197079. The next two decades have witnessed a marked decline in strike activity: From 198089, the number of lost working days fell to 7.2 million, and in the period 199096, this number reached only 0.37 million, indicating a further fall in strike activity.Furthermore, in contrast to the strike record in the 70s, strikes in the 80s and 90s almost disappeared from the private sector and were virtually confined to the public sector. One of the reasons for the decline in strike activity can be found in the legislation of the Thatcher government in the 1980s. The government outlawed secondary action, which restricted strike action to the employer with whom the trade union was in dispute. It also banned strikes conducted for political reason and regulated picketing by limiting the number of people taking part. Even more important, the Thatcher government introduced compulsory secret ballots for strike action. This was in contrast to previous customs, where the decision for or against strikes were made by raising hands. All these measures limited the legal opportunities for strikes and made them more costly and harder to conduct. In addition, the new legislations made trade unions legally accountable for actions taken in their name. It enabled unions to restore control and reduce the number of unofficial strikes, which were a major source of the growth in strike activity in the 60s and 70s.Besides, the introduction of secret ballots for strike action could also act as strike preventing measure. If a strike ballots goes in favour of a strike, employers willing to avoid industrial action often make new offers, which help to settle the dispute peacefully. Furthermore, new 1
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