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The fight for legality

Although ‘new unionism’ spread widely in the skilled trades, many employers remained hostile to broader trade unionism. Ample opportunity to eliminate organised labour at the workplace was provided by the criminal restrictions which were still applicable to trade unions. The Combination Act 1825 had given unions a bare legality but, as we saw earlier, when unions attempted to pursue their objects of improving pay and conditions they offended against the penal provisions of the Act. To threaten or to take strike action, to boycott non-union labour or picket peacefully were all illegal.25