Is the Strike No Longer Necessary?

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Is the strike no longer necessary?

Throughout the years conflict has occurred between managers and workers resulting in industrial action taken either individually or as a collective form. The most favoured form of industrial action is the strike where employees demonstrate the importance of the issue concerned by stopping work and leaving the workplace. Strikes occur for a number of reasons one being pay. Strike patterns have changed over the years showing a decline in numbers that are due to many reasons such as changes in the law, which will be discussed later.

Strikes are an obvious expression of industrial conflict and can be defined as ‘a temporary stoppage of work by a group of employees in order to express a grievance or enforce a demand'. The term temporary stoppage implies that the workers intend to return to their jobs when the strike is over. As it is a stoppage of work this distinguishes the strike from other forms of industrial action such as an overtime ban or go-slow. The strike is undertaken by a group of employees thereby highlighting it as a collective act; also the strike is specifically designed to seek a solution to problems and to apply pressure to enforce demands.

It has been suggested there are six definitions that can describe the main types of strikes which include, the trial of strength where the strikes tend to be long-lasting affairs concerning substantial costs to employers. A second type of strike can be illustrated as the ‘official strike' where a union officially supports its members according to the union rules governing the conduct of disputes. However a third type of strike the ‘unofficial strike' is where the strike has not been recognised by the union leadership, although in recent years these types of strikes have declined.

It is evident that Britain's strike figures show a number of trends. There have been significant changes in patterns of striking since the 1940s. During the late 1940s there were fewer strikes in many subsequent periods. However, for the first time since 1926, the 1950s saw a number of large national strikes in industries such as engineering and dock working. The strike numbers came to a peak in the 1960s as there was a substantial increase in the number of small strikes in the car industry and other related sectors, also at the same time there was a continuation of the larger national disputes which resulted in the large numbers of strikes. During the 1970s, the number of strikes began to slightly fall. However, there were still several large disputes involving stoppages in engineering and the public sector. The 1980s saw a substantial decline in the number of strikes recorded, and also in the 1990s there were further substantial falls and the number of large disputes fell significantly. The 1980s were associated with significant changes in the economic and political environments, with a substantial decline in the manufacturing sector and privatisation, there were also high levels of unemployment and declining trade union membership. The 1990s saw an increased importance on organisational competitiveness and changes in working patterns.

Strikes are not spread out equally throughout the labour force for example in Britain from 1966 to 1970 the number of days lost through strikes was greatest in the dock industry, followed by the car industry and coalmining. The patterns of striking have changed to some extent, for example in 1996, transport, storage and communication had the highest strike rate, followed by the manufacture of petroleum products and then manufacturing of transport equipment. Certain industries seem more prone to strikes than others.

Kerr and Siegel (1954) in a study off strikes in eleven countries found that miners, dockers and seamen had the highest strike records. They argued that community integration was the key to explaining the level of strike activity in these occupations. The miners, dockers and seamen tended to...
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