Margaret Thatcher: A Portrait of the Iron Lady

By John Blundell | Go to book overview

16. REFORMING THE UNIONS

“Laws giving protective immunity to the trade unions at the turn
of the century were now abused to protect restrictive practices and
over manning, to underpin strikes and to coerce workers into join-
ing unions and participation in industrial action against their bet-
ter judgment.”

It is now a generation since the National Union of Mineworkers brought down a government. You have to be at least in your mid forties to recall the British three day week, the endless strikes, the ignorance and arrogance of the far left Union leaders, the coercion of decent people and the endless meetings of union leaders, bosses and the PM over beer and sandwiches at Number 10.

The whole culture was one of getting ahead by brute force rather than better serving your customer. British trade unions were exempted from the Law of Tort. They were immune from the restraints of law.

Prime Minister Thatcher, strengthened by the winter of discontent, wanted to make three immediate changes. First she wanted to tackle the practice of picketing, limiting it just to the place of work directly involved. In other words secondary picketing at say an upstream supplier would become illegal.

Second, Labour had strengthened the rights of unions to impose closed shops — to make union membership obligatory. She proposed

-127-

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Margaret Thatcher: A Portrait of the Iron Lady
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page v
  • List of Acronyms ix
  • Acknowledgements xi
  • Protocol xiii
  • Table of Contents xv
  • Preface 1
  • Introduction 11
  • 1- Childhood 17
  • 2- University 25
  • 3- Launching 35
  • 4- Elected 45
  • 5- Opposition I 53
  • 6- Education Secretary 63
  • 7- Reflections 71
  • 8- Leader 77
  • 9- Opposition II 83
  • 10- Power 89
  • 11- Liberating the Economy 93
  • 12- Privatizing the Commanding Heights 99
  • 13- Selling off Public Housing 107
  • 14- Going to War 113
  • 15- Beating the Miners 121
  • 16- Reforming the Unions 127
  • 17- Battling the I.R.a 131
  • 18- Befriending America 137
  • 19- Kicking Down the Wall 141
  • 20- Dealing with Brussels 147
  • 21- Resignation 155
  • 22- Retirement 165
  • 23- Family 173
  • 24- Men 181
  • 25- Her World 191
  • 26- Ten Lessons 197
  • Postscript- What Remains to Be Done 207
  • Appendix I- Table of Margaret Thatcher’s Elections* 209
  • Appendix II- General Election Results from 1945 -2005 210
  • Further Reading 211
  • Index 213
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