ON THIS DAY    18 December      Graphics version >>   BBC News >>
Search ON THIS DAY by date   
  Go back one day Go forward one day

Front Page |  Years |  Themes |  Witness
1989: Labour's union U-turn

The Labour Party has abandoned its policy on trade union closed shops in line with European legislation.

The decision is seen by many to be a move away from the party's old-style socialism towards a more European-wide agenda.

It ends the widespread policy of some employers who discriminate against employees who are not members of a union.

Labour sources reveal it is hoped the new policy will reduce government's accusations that the party is dominated by trade unions.

Shadow employment secretary Tony Blair said the move was crucial for a sustainable approach from the party to employment.

"We have got to bring our law into line with the rest of Europe," he said.

"That is sensible in the run up to the single European market and also it allows us, which I think is crucial, to try and get some stability in industrial relations to get a settlement in industrial law that lasts.

"That is the key thing for rebuilding our industrial base."

Sell out

But while many union leaders have reluctantly agreed to an end to the Labour policy it has met with anger from MPs to the left of the party.

Many are accusing the decision as being a "sell-out" of socialism and a further move away from traditional Labour policies.

Labour MP Eric Heffer who is opposed to the policy, said: "It adds up to a very real retreat as far as our principles are concerned.

"It is unnecessary because we can win the next election without giving away any of our principles."

The policy change has been welcomed by the government and comes ahead of its new employment bill which will be published this week and will help curb unofficial strikes.

Employment secretary Norman Fowler said employees should be considered on merit and not on their union affiliations.

In Context
The trade unions were popularly perceived to be running the Labour party - an image many were keen to shake off.

Tony Blair was widely known as a moderniser and in his party leadership election statement in 1994 he said Labour must be reformed radically to win office.

As leader of the party he instigated the removal of Clause Four which marked an end to a traditional Labour commitment to nationalisation.

This was followed in 1996 by the publication of "New Labour, New Life for Britain," offering a new-look Labour perspective on government.

Ini 1997 Labour returned to power with a landslide victory after 18 years in the political wilderness.


Search ON THIS DAY by date   
  Go back one day Go forward one day

Front Page |  Years |  Themes |  Witness
^^ Back to top |