Historical Studies in Industrial Relations

In Defence of Trade-Unionism: Bill Wedderburn and Rookes v. Barnard

Historical Studies in Industrial Relations (2021), 42, (1), 75–110.

Abstract

Bill Wedderburn (1927-2012) - from 1977, Lord Wedderburn of Charlton - was a towering figure in the world of labour law. His commitment to trade-unionism and the right of workers to take industrial action, given the asymmetrical nature of the employment relationship, ran deep, pervading every aspect of his forensic, sometimes biting, analysis of labour law and the role of the common law. Prompted by the Rookes decision in the High Court, 1961, and the subsequent decision of the House of Lords Judicial Committee, 1964, Wedderburn launched a wide-ranging defence - academic and public - of trade unions’ freedom to strike and the Trade Disputes Act (TDA) 1906. He argued that the House of Lords’ decision had created a new common law liability which evaded the protections in the TDA 1906. This was neutralized by the Trade Disputes Act 1965, but a new wider version of the TDA had to wait for the passage of the Trade Union and Labour Relations Act, as amended in 1976.

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Author details

Smith, Paul