The Industrial Front and Trade Unionism

Geoffrey G. Field

in Blood, Sweat, and Toil

Published in print November 2011 | ISBN: 9780199604111
Published online January 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780191731686 | DOI:
The Industrial Front and Trade Unionism

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The chapter discusses British industrial mobilization and the introduction of a framework of manpower controls by Ernest Bevin, Minister of Labour. While limiting the freedom of workers, the controls also constrained the freedom of employers and gave impetus to a rapid spread of trade unionism and structures of joint consultation between the state, labour, and business, which also included plant-level joint production committees. Full employment and the growing power of trade unionism boosted workers' collective power and status within the nation's war effort. Though strikes were officially banned, an increasing number took place; the chapter examines the reasons for this, focusing on the engineering and coal-mining sectors. The war had a profound effect on the trade unions and industrial relations, but it also reinforced the system of voluntaristic wage-bargaining and placed obstacles in the way of trade union reform and more dirigiste forms of state economic planning.

Keywords: Ernest Bevin; British trade unionism; ‘The People's Convention’; strikes; engineering; coal industry; shop stewards; joint production committees

Chapter.  27989 words. 

Subjects: Modern History (1700 to 1945)

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