Wage Politics in Britain: The Rise and Fall of Incomes Policies Since 1945
One of the most controversial and problematic aspects of post-war British politics concerned the various attempts by governments to secure wage restraint by the trade unions. Until 1979, successive governments entered Office seeking to reassure the trade unions that they would not interfere with free collective bargaining, only to revert to incomes policies when faced with higher inflation or unemployment. These incomes policies assumed various guises and formulas, and entailed various methods of enforcement and evaluation. In addition to being invoked as a means of curbing inflation and unemployment, some incomes policies were ascribed other objectives, such as increasing productivity or eradicating poverty. Yet incomes policies repeatedly brought governments into conflict with trade unions, which resented the state's intervention in wage determination, whilst also engendering disagreements within the political parties themselves. Thus it was that from 1979, incomes policies were rejected as a means of securing wage restraint, even though some politicians continued to believe in their efficacy. Written from a political science perspective, this book provides a comprehensive and in-depth account of the history of incomes policies in post-war Britain, detailing the particular attempts at securing wage restraint pursued by each government up to 1979, and how and why incomes policies were abandoned thereafter. Filling a major gap in the existing literature, the book synthesizes previously published material with extensive primary sources, extrapolated from Cabinet papers, ministerial correspondence, internal Treasury and Departmental papers, and previously unpublished materials from the archives of the Labor and Conservative parties.
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