Historical Studies in Industrial Relations

‘Going for the Jugular’: The Steelworkers’ Banner and the 1980 National Steelworkers’ Strike in Britain

Historical Studies in Industrial Relations (2017), 38, (1), 97–128.

Abstract

Across a thirteen-week period from January to April 1980, a national steelworkers’ strike took place in Britain. Ostensibly a pay dispute between the steel unions and the nationalized British Steel Corporation (BSC), the strike brought into focus some of the deeper problems the industry faced. As articulated by successive governments, the media, BSC, and even elements within the leadership of the steel unions themselves, these problems were almost wholly a result of poor productivity and over-staffing in the industry. However, during the strike the main steelworkers’ union, the Iron and Steel Trades Confederation, produced a journal, the Steelworkers’ Banner, which challenged this consensus and provided a rationale for the strike. Basing its arguments on original research, the Banner produced evidence of BSC’s mismanagement and produced an alternative strategy for the industry. This did not prevail but is significant as a rare example of a trade-union challenge to the managerial prerogative in relation to company strategy.

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Author details

McGuire, Charlie