chapter  10
18 Pages

Comparisons and prospects

Industrial relations and trade unions in North America and Britain
ByBrian Towers

The British Labour government, elected in 1997 after eighteen years out of office, had some debts to the unions, though fewer than in earlier elections. The older industrial relations terrain had been “transformed,” in particular by a major decline in union membership and a corresponding contraction in collective bargaining (Cully et al. 1999, Millward 2000 et al., Hawes 2000). Such a seriously weakened union movement was a situation not previously encountered by an incoming government since 1945. The 1997 government, partly in consequence, had also earlier shed much of old Labour’s pro-union ideology in favor of the interests of business; although there was some even-handedness, not least in the commitment to a statutory recognition procedure. This drew, in its design, upon the lessons of the earlier failure as well as, in both in their similarities and contrasts, the experience of Canada and the US.