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Trade Union Decline Perspectives

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Which perspective, unitary, pluralist or radical offers the most robust explanation for the decline in Trades Unions?
This essay will look at statistics on membership and density, along with important legislation to conclude whether there has been a decline in trade unions. A trade union is an organisation that looks after the interests of its members, usually employees of a particular industry. Jackson (1982, p.1) cites Webb and Webb (1942, p.1) that a trade union is “A continuous association of wage-earners for the purpose of maintaining or improving the condition of their working lives”. This is a very succinct definition of trade unions, but it gets across their main purpose. Several perspectives will be examined for the function of trade unions in each, to try and determine if one perspective offers a clear and suitable explanation for a potential decline in trade unions.
It has been suggested that there has been a decline in trade unions. Hamish Fraser (1999, p.231) indicates that trade union membership was on the rise well into the late 1970’s “In 1974 for the first time ever…union density…crossed the...50% mark overall and would continue to rise until 1979”. This shows that as late as 1979 trade unions were in a very strong position; they had their largest ever membership density. Using figures from Jackson (1982, p.4) we can see that in 1978 there were 462 unions within the UK with 13,112,000 members, and that 80% of total union members within the UK belonged to the biggest 26 unions, all of which had over 100,000 members. These statistics would imply that trade unions ended the decade with more members and more power than they had ever had before, far from any decline.
However in 1979 Margret Thatcher’s Conservative Government came to power and began the political exclusion of the trade unions. The conservative government began to implement certain...

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