Thursday, September 23, 2010
You may recall Margaret Thatcher showing her undying love for the man’s work when she famously brought a copy of his ‘Constitution of Liberty’ to the despatch box. Let’s not forget that this was a man who called for a “libertarian anti-labour union movement of workers to combat the trade union monopolists”. This is what the Conservatives based their industrial relations revolution on.
Under the guise of wanting to protect trade union members’ democratic rights, the Tories sought to limit autonomy in the way unions conducted strike ballots. What they did not take into account was the unique nature of industrial democracy and the collectivist ideals that underpinned the entire movement. They certainly did not consider unions as multifaceted organisations with a variety of representative structures.
For example, large unions used to gauge membership opinion using different methods depending on whether the dispute was local, regional or national. It can be argued that the lack of autonomy to estimate membership support for strike action in urgent situations can actually prolong disputes. Compulsory postal balloting also took away the collective social process that is endemic to the workplace ballot. Basically, it was a ridiculous idea to impose libertarian ideals on trade unions.