An analysis of trade unions in shaping favoured employment relations outcomes in the British Labour Party post-1970

  • Andrew Brady

Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis


Though the contemporary political situation is unfavourable, there has been a continuing and lively debate about the efficacy of trade union affiliation to the Labour Party. This debate has primarily focused upon if trade unions are an effective mechanism for political action due to their institutional role and leverage inside the party's structures.In order to evaluate the extent of this influence, the thesis examines four legislative events, which chart the transition from two structurally different contexts - collective laissez-faireism to a liberal market economy. These events are the Social Contract (1974-79), National Minimum Wage (1998), Employment Relations Act (1999) and the Warwick Agreement (2004). The thesis uses Hamann and Kelly's (2004) four factors of influence that shape trade union decision-making as a conceptual framework: (1) economic and political institutions (2) union ideology, (3) employer, political party or state strategies and (4) strategic choices of union leaders. The research established three questions framed as propositions designed to identify structural and agency factors flowing from these four factors.Utilising this framework, the thesis will present an analysis of the constraining and optimising effects of the four factors on the ability of trade unions to attain favoured outcomes. The research found the strategic choices of union leaders to be the most important factor contributing to minimalist and more extensive employment relations frameworks. Informal processes are judged to have displaced formal processes in conjunction with coordination mechanisms as a means to offsetting environmental constraints.The thesis' observations are anchored through a unique dataset consisting of in-depth interviews from the reflections of actors who strategically influenced the behaviour of trade unions or directly engaged trade union leaders in the legislative events. The object of enquiry, that being political action by trade unions as a mechanism for delivering change, is better understood from the strategic perspective of these actors. As such, a distinctive feature of the research is its approach to case events and sources of data.
Date of Award13 Apr 2017
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • University Of Strathclyde

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