Trade Mark Nine

Trade Mark Nine

Trade Mark Nine out of sixteen million employees were members in unions affiliated to the Trades Union Congress, the central co-ordinating body of the movement. Though the T.U.C. acts as the movement's spokesman and can adjudicate disputes between unions, it has little power to discipline its members and can lead only by persuasion. But the presiding body of the T.U.C., the General Council, is made up of officials of the largest unions, and its decisions reflect the opinion of the bulk of the trade union movement.

Some economists have recently argued that the power of trade unions in Britain is excessive in the sellers' market for labour created by full (or over-full) employment. Unions are accused of other defects: apathy allows extremists or sectional interests to influence or dictate policy; some unions, especially in declining industries, are still haunted by the thirty-year-old spectre of mass .unemploymentand insist on wasteful restrictive practices to ensure work for their members; often internal discipline is faulty and trouble-makers in the factories can provoke unofficial strikes. Not least, it is said that the 'image' of the movement as a responsible institution is tarnished by the insistence of some trade union traditionalists on the fight against 'capitalism' and their apparent reluctance in some cases to consider the national interest. An opposite view of some economists is that the unions cannot be asked to exercise 'restraint' if the economic circumstances enable them to gain advantages for their members, and that if such advantages are obtained at the expense of the community in general the economic circumstances should be changed (e.g. inflation may enable employers to acquiesce in wage demands they can pass on in higher prices) or the legal privileges that enable the unions to enforce their claims should be withdrawn. The ideals and philosophy of some trade unionists seem to have lagged behind economic and industrial change. The future place of trade unions may depend on whether they can abandon their tendency to look back and determine to bring themselves up to date.

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