'Everybody Out!' The Myth of the Modern Union


Let me cast your minds back to 1984. Frankie goes to Hollywood had just hit the top of the charts with 'Relax', Neil Kinnock was appearing in music videos to make himself more appealing to the electorate and a militant 46 year old Union leader from Yorkshire had just picked a fight with Prime Minister Thatcher. This caused a turn of events which shaped modern Left-Wing Politics. Now we all know Thatcher crushed Scargill in the Miners strike, many people said it was all part of her aim to destroy Trade Unions, it would be wholly foolish to suggest that was her aim. It is widely considered that she wanted (and needed) to modernise the country and some unions were standing in her way. It pains me to write this as someone who is critical of Thatcher but I feel trade unions are now stronger from this encounter, and that is entirely down to the great leadership shown by these new-age union leaders.


No one can argue that workers need someone to get them the best deal, and what the Trade Union movement does is integral to that (be it Health and Safety, Working time directive, the living wage) we should all be thankful for the work our unions do. But in 1984 the Miners (who I feel deserved a better deal) were not given that by the then Tory government, in the end Scargill took a large group of workers on a strike which they were not going to win and ended up crushing the mining communities across the UK as a consequence. If he was not to strike, an agreement would have been reached and I feel the de-industrialising process of the UK would have bypassed the Mines somewhat and we would have had a less abrasive collapse of communities. A fact now which unions accept and work towards.


The modern trade union is not one of 'Everybody out' at the slightest hint of a dispute, now Unions work towards training their workforce for future labour market changes, protecting workers rights and encouraging cohesion to an increasingly multicultural workplace. Working with their employers, the days of us and them are starting to fade and Union members are increasing in number. The more integrated workforce may have been what Thatcher wanted, but now there seems to be a real movement coming for trade unions, one which if neglected by Cameron could see his 'Recovery' fall apart and if neglected by Miliband could see him losing what was a very winnable election.


The unions by and large are now modern and are ready to defend workers rights in the 21st century, politicians ignore them at your peril.