UNISONActive is an unofficial blog produced by UNISON activists for UNISON activists. Bringing news, briefings and events from a progressive left perspective.

Thursday, 11 April 2013

Facing Up to Thatcherism and how we fought back

There is no better volume of trade union history which charts the public sector trade union real time response to the excesses of Thatcherism than the third and final volume of NALGO's history - Facing Up to Thatcherism: The History of NALGO 1979-93 by Michael Ironside and Roger Seifert. UNISON's founding General Secretary Alan Jinkinson, in a foreword to this important book, written in June 2000 but which has found many echoes this week, states that: ‘Thatcherism became the global phenomenon of the era.
    Many NALGO members were angered by an ideology which undermined the post-war welfare settlement, that worshipped monetarism, the market and the individual,that asserted that there was ‘no such thing as society’, and that sought to humiliate public servants and trade unionists.

The practicable implementation of this policy seemed interminable - privatisation, contracting-out, compulsory competitive tendering, the creation of internal markets, cash limits, unspoken public sector pay policy, the decentralization of collective bargaining, the abolition of a tier of local government, and wave upon wave of anti trade union legislation.'

An abstract published by Oxford scholarship Online states that 'Throughout the 1980s Mrs. Thatcher dominated political life in the UK and Thatcherism became the shorthand for a series of political initiatives all over the world. Most accounts of these years have concentrated on the economics of free markets and privatisation. This book takes a different stance through a detailed analysis of the responses of The National and Local Government Officers Association (NALGO) members, activists, leaders, and officials to the government’s public sector reform and restructuring programme. Employees in health, local government, and education faced cuts in funding, compulsory competitive tendering, internal markets, and new management practices associated with human resource management (HRM) and total quality management (TQM). Others in the gas, water, electricity, and transport industries faced wholesale privatisation.'

Copies can be ordered on line and may be available from UNISON regional offices.