The Development Of Trade Unions In Britain

1580 words - 6 pages

The Development of Trade Unions in Britain

There are many different factors as to why trade unions developed so
incredibly slowly in Britain. The problems started from the 1850s when
New Model Unions were introduced. The ASE (Amalgamated Society of
Engineers) had been formed in 1851 and had become the inspiration for
other unions in similar areas of craftsmanship to be formed. Many
people liked the idea of a union because it gave them certain
protection like that of wages and standards of living and benefits for
ill and unemployed members and so joined a union which appealed to
them. One of the first setbacks which was unnoticed for some time was
the fact that these New Model Unions had entry requirements such as a
high membership fees and the fact that they only allowed skilled
workers to join. The fee meant that many couldn't afford to join. As
for only wanting skilled workers, it meant that a large amount of
people (the unskilled workers) were left without any help whatsoever.
The New Model Unions liked to think of themselves as respectable and
non-provocative unions on the middle class level along with their

A few problems occurred in the 60s which affected trade unionism in a
bad way. One of them was the perception of the government and the
public. Trade Unions were seen as dangerous organisations and violent
mobs because of the striking and the occasional outbreaks of violence.
The attitudes of employers was another problem. 'The Document'
…………………………… There was also an increase of union violence which
escalated extremely as in the case of the Sheffield outrages where
violence was used against blacklegs (people who continued to work
during a strike) and this gave Trade Unionism a bad image. Some unions
experienced difficulties in regard to their funds being stolen by
treasurers or members and the realisation that their funds were not
100% legally protected because they were in 'restraint of trade' which
meant that funds were not protected by the Friendly Societies Act.
Societies registered under the Act were accused of 'acting too much
like a union' and funds were not covered because unions were liable to
strike. On the plus side, the formation of the Royal Commission on
Trade Unions was set up in the late 60s which turned out to be a great
advantage to Trade Unions because of the Minority Report created by
Frederic Harrison, Thomas Hughes and the Earl of Lichfield. They
argued that trade unions should be given privileged legal status and
Harrison proposed several changes to the law : 1) People who joined
should not be liable for indictment for conspiracy unless their
actions would be criminal if committed by a single person; 2) The
common law doctrine of restraint of trade in its application to trade
associations should be repealed; 3) That...

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