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The impact of the law on industrial disputes in the 1980s

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This paper evaluates evidence from information provided by trade unions and employers'' association in 1990-91 on the influence of the law on industrial disputes in the 1980s. A detailed analysis of four sectors - education, other public services, printing and publishing, engineering and construction- leads to the conclusion that while the law was an important factor in some disputes in the 1980s, government claims concerning the beneficial impact of the labour legislation of 1980-1990 are too simplistic. In the 1980s the law in general became a more important factor in industrial disputes, developing a trend which emerged in the 1960s and developed in the 1970s. But the influence of the law varied considerably between different sources. Of the legislative changes in the 1980s, only the requirement for unions to hold ballots before calling on their members to take industrial action had a significant overall impact and the effects of this change were diverse and complex. A combination of legislative and judicial development of employers'' rights to withhold pay from and dismiss workers taking industrial action was as important a general influence on actual practice as the other legislative changes in this period.

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