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To What Extent Does the Number of Strikes Revealed in the UK Suggest We Are Currently Witnessing a Period of Workplace Harmony - Essay Example

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To What Extent Does the Number of Strikes Revealed in the UK Suggest We Are Currently Witnessing a Period of Workplace Harmony

In the scholarly article by John Godard, titled ‘What Has Happened to Strikes?’, we learn how worker strikes have gradually decreased in Britain. But, while strikes per se have declined, this does not directly imply that worker satisfaction with management has correspondingly improved. There are other factors at play which account for the decreased frequency of strikes, apart from improvements in levels of employee satisfaction. The rest of this essay will elaborate on this point. Strikes are an integral part of the discipline of Industrial Relations (of which Employee Relations is a part). But the subsiding of frequency of strikes in the UK since the early 1990s meant that they have lost their prominence in Industrial Relations discourse. For example, from their heyday between 1970 and 1990, when British industry witnessed more than a thousand days lost per thousand workers on three occasions, the figures have hovered close to zero since the last decade (2005 being the only exception). (Godard, 2011, p.285) As a way of explaining this fall, scholar John Godard attempts to make a distinction between the terms ‘strike’ and ‘conflict’, stating that the latter is a generic state of affairs while the former is a specific manifestation. In his research article, Godard hypothesizes four plausible alternative avenues where “the conflict posited in Strikes has gone”. These four hypotheses are: “(i) it has been diverted into alternative forms of con?ict; (ii) capitalism has effectively triumphed,

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re?ecting a lessening of the stock of discontent or, at least, the will to act on it; (iii) con?ict has only become more deeply embedded, manifest in general attitudes and behaviours, either within or outside the workplace, and not traditionally considered to re?ect the sources of con?ict; and (iv) con?ict, particularly the collective manifestation of it, is not dead, but rather has simply become dormant.” (Godard, 2011, p.288) Drawing on Richard Hyman’s seminal 1972 publication Strikes, Godard seconds the view that ‘attempts to suppress specific manifestations...merely divert the conflict into other forms’. This is especially a valid argument when one considers the rapid individualization of employment law in the UK and across the industrial world. The rise in individual rights has, to an extent, made redundant the need for union representation. Although data on alternative mediums of conflict is difficult to collate, the increase in Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service (ACAS) filings in Britain (especially as these filings have escalated since early 1990s), partially vindicates the Godard hypothesis. Changes in work environment (compelled by Britain’s shift from a manufacturing economy to a service economy) have also played a role. Whether or not the decline in strikes is a proof of the triumph of capitalism is not clear. Capitalist theories have always maintained that after peaking out, conflicts will plateau out due to the streamlining of the capitalist culture. Moreover, as the capitalist economy has now turned into a predominantly services economy, the percentage of white collar workers has increased tremendously. There is some merit to the view that jobs in the ‘
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To what extent does the number of strikes revealed in the UK suggest we are currently witnessing a period of workplace harmony? The United Kingdom has had vibrant labour organization throughout the last century. The UK being one of the key centres of the Industrial Revolution, the working class had always striven to make its voice heard…
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