Labour History

Opposition to the Accord as a Social Contract in the 1980s

Labour History (2013), 105, (1), 47–62.


The approaches that organised workers and their unions took to the Accord in the 1980s are typically explained in terms of consent and conformity, the suppression of worker dissent, or waning industrial militancy that might otherwise have enabled opposition. These explanations are problematic; the lack of a substantial challenge to the labour movement’s adherence to the Accord was not predetermined. In particular, some unionists were motivated to oppose the Accord because they thought, in various ways, that the Accord imposed a social contract on labour that subordinated it to capital. However, their actions were inconsistent and disparate. Some of those who held to this oppositional sensibility identified a regeneration of the political party Left, which would then guide and unite such action, but they did not try to implement it. The way was left open for a radical decline in union strength in the 1990s.

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*The author would like to thank Doug Hunt and the two anonymous referees ofLabour Historyfor their valuable comments and suggestions. Google Scholar

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Author details

Strauss, Jonathan