INDUSTRIAL CITIZENSHIP: A RE-CONCEPTUALISATION AND CASE STUDY OF THE UK
Purpose: To critically examine and reformulate TH Marshall’s concept of industrial citizenship, and apply the reformulated model to a case study of the UK.
Design/Methodology/Approach: Marshall’s conceptualisation of industrial citizenship is criticised for neglecting the rights of unions as collective rights and for treating industrial citizenship as an aggregation of individual rights. Subsequent attempts to use the idea of industrial citizenship are similarly flawed. A case study of changes to industrial citizenship in the UK in the 1980s and 1990s is used to develop the new model and provide evidence in support of it.
Findings: An alternative conceptualisation of industrial citizenship is presented that outlines collective and individual powers, obligations, liberties, constraints, immunities and liabilities. This model is illustrated using examples from the Conservative governments’ industrial relations legislation of the 1980s and 1990s.
Originality/value: Discussions and applications of TH Marshall’s concept of industrial citizenship are few and far between. The paper proposes an original re-conceptualisation specifying the collective rights of unions in the British regime of industrial citizenship. This new concept of industrial citizenship is then applied to the radical changes in industrial relations legislation in the UK in the 1980s and 1990s.
T. H. Marshall introduced the concept of industrial citizenship in his account of the relationship between citizenship and social class (Marshall 1992). In his discussion of industrial citizenship employees have the right to form and join unions and to engage in actions such as strikes in pursuit of higher wages and better conditions of employment (Marshall 1992: 40-3). However, industrial citizenship in Marshall's account is secondary to civil citizenship, and with some notable exceptions (Barbalet 1988: 22-7; Fudge, 2005; Gersuny 1994; Janoski 1998: 29, 42; Janowitz 1980: 7-8; Muller-Jentsch 1991; Munlak, 2007; Streeck 1997; Woodiwiss 1997) has received little attention from subsequent commentators. However, these later discussions still retain Marshall’s concept of industrial citizenship and its attendant problems.
Subsequent work on citizenship has sought to extend Marshall’s initial formulation in relation to various dimensions of inequality, such as gender, ethnicity, sexuality, and disability (Bulmer and Rees 1996; Held 1989; Hussain and Bagguley, 2005; Isin and Wood 1999; Kymlicka 1995; Lister 1997; Nash 2000; Sypnowich 2000; Stevenson 2001; Turner 1986; Waite 1999; Yuval-Davies 1997), or in relation to globalisation and the restructuring of welfare provision (Delanty 2000; Glenn 2000; Roche 1992; Roche and Van Berkel 1997; Turner 1993; Urry 2000: 161-87), but have tended to neglect industrial citizenship. Although it is generally held that Marshall’s model of citizenship was ‘evolutionary’ and that once established each of the distinct realms of citizenship were difficult to reverse a number of writers have noted that citizenship can be ‘eroded’ (Turner 2001; Kivisto and Faist 2007). However, absent from these accounts of erosion is any consideration of industrial citizenship.
There are several ways in which I want to fundamentally re-conceptualise industrial citizenship to enable us to use the idea empirically. I argue that it is necessary to take seriously the idea of unions as legal subjects through the concept of collective industrial citizenship rights. Collective rights of industrial citizenship and individual rights are inter-dependent but not reducible to each other. I emphasise the contradictory and contested character of industrial citizenship and that industrial citizenship rights may be eroded as a result of political conflict. Furthermore, I argue that the collective rights of unions are a form of collective human rights. In addition I suggest that unions’ collective powers, immunities and liberties cannot be derived from the individual rights of workers. Although unions are dependent on the rights of individuals to be able to join unions, individual workers can often only exercise their individual rights when unions have strong collective rights. The collective and individual rights of industrial citizenship are inter-dependent.
This dichotomy of individual and collective rights highlights the asymmetrical power relations between labour and capital and what Offe and Wiesenthal (1985) termed their different logics of collective action. Whilst capital is necessarily collective, commodified labour is individualised, so labour needs to collectivise itself in the form of unions before it can act effectively against capital, or as Korpi (1978) expressed it the working class has to construct sufficient power resources against capital. Furthermore, unions have collective and corporate powers that individuals lack. However, the individualised forms of action that states seek to impose upon unions, such as postal ballots, lead to their bureaucratisation and the decline of collective identity. Much of what is termed ‘class struggle’ is really about the ‘… appropriate institutional framework of action.’ (Offe and Wiesenthal 1985: 207). Marshall’s concept of industrial citizenship has to be radically revised by drawing upon wider theoretical debates about collective rights to properly address the issues identified by Korpi and Offe and Wiesenthal.
The case study of changes in legislation in Britain between 1980 and the 1990s and their effects is central to the argument of this paper in several respects. It functions as a ‘critical case study’ (Ragin, 1992: 2; Yin, 2003: 40) for the development of the re-conceptualisation of industrial citizenship. It is and ‘extreme’ or even ‘unique’ case of change in the regime of industrial citizenship the helps to build the theory. More specifically it demonstrates the significance of the conceptual innovations proposed in the first part of the paper. Although well known to those familiar with the history of industrial relations in the UK, it has not been previously discussed in terms of the concept of industrial citizenship, and as a case study it reveals the limits of previous discussions provides empirical validation of the new theoretical claims that are made here. Furthermore it shows how industrial citizenship, and the balance of individual and collective rights embodied within it, has the potential to shape how unions act both internally and externally, to shape their form and the dynamics of collective action.
Marshall’s Theory of Industrial Citizenship: a critical analysis
Marshall distinguished between civil, political and social forms of citizenship, where citizenship generally referred to a situation of equal membership of the national societal community in a way compatible with economic inequality. He saw citizenship as legitimating social inequality arising from the class processes of the capitalist economy. Civil citizenship consists of the rights of individual liberty, freedom of speech, thought and faith, the right to own property and rights of contract. These rights are embedded in the institutions of courts of justice. Political citizenship involves the right to participate in the exercise of political power, which is embedded in the institutions of parliament and local councils. Social citizenship entails rights to welfare delivered through education and social services (Marshall 1992). Initially Marshall argues that these separate dimensions of civil, political and social citizenship were institutionally fused, but modernisation separated them enabling their independent development into civil rights followed by political and social citizenship. In the context of this model industrial citizenship remains something of an anomaly and a secondary feature of the system of citizenship as a whole (Mundlak, 2007: 723). This is because trade unions can in Marshall’s words:
... exercise vital civil rights collectively on behalf of their members without formal collective responsibility, while the individual responsibility of the workers in relation to contract is largely unenforceable. These civil rights became, for the workers, an instrument for raising their economic and social status… (Marshall 1992:26)
In Marshall's view the rights exercised by trade unions do not fit with his liberal conception of citizenship. It seems that the whole edifice is constructed on extensions of the notion of civil citizenship as being rights of individual autonomy. Such rights of civil citizenship are one of the conditions for a free market economy, including a 'free' labour market (Marshall 1992: 14). However, he did seem to be aware of the contradictions between the different aspects of citizenship, both at the general level of the potential contradictions between social and civil citizenship, which he discussed as the conflict between citizenship and class, and in the specific instance of industrial citizenship. He saw industrial citizenship emerging from political struggle by workers, and as a countervailing force to the market oriented features of civil citizenship (Marshall 1992: 40). Here the collective rights of trade unions are presented as an aggregation of the individual rights of workers, or the rights of workers to act in combination (Munlak, 2007: 723). However, this is a rather limited view of the rights of unions. Ever since British unions were granted immunity from legal actions for damages resulting from their role as the organisers of strikes, the state has treated them as collective legal entities or subjects in their own right. This means that we need the concept of the collective rights of industrial citizenship if we are to retain the concept and use it to analyse regimes of industrial citizenship, changes in them and their effects.
Marshall thought that the anomaly of industrial citizenship was rooted in the lack of duties to balance the rights compared to the other forms of citizenship. Indeed he was critical of those trade unionists, usually shop stewards, who organise unofficial strikes, seeing them as abusing their civil rights, and neglecting their obligations (Marshall 1992: 41; Janowitz 1980: 7). Marshall was supportive of the incipient forms of corporatist bargaining that had emerged by the 1940s. He saw these as valuable and enduring extensions of industrial citizenship, partly I suspect because they implied the imposition on trade union leaders of duties towards the national state (Marshall 1992: 41).
The problem with such an analysis is that British corporatism was limited in its development, and has since largely disappeared (Crouch 1996: 116-17; King 1993). Nevertheless, the way in which Marshall conceives of citizenship as enabling certain kinds of action is of enduring value. Civil citizenship he saw as enabling certain kinds of economic action, whilst political citizenship enabled certain kinds of collective political action. Industrial citizenship in a similar manner enables certain kinds of collective action by unions. It is a kind of extra-economic structure or framework for their actions. If industrial citizenship rights are changed in a fundamental way then what unions are enabled to do and how they can act will also change. However, the problem with Marshall's account is that it is too literally liberal, in that it is focused upon individual rights. He always ties the rights of citizenship to the duties of citizenship, although in general he sees a trend from an emphasis on the duties of citizenship to an emphasis on the rights of citizens. In the instance of industrial citizenship he sees this tie between rights and duties as being broken by giving trade unions certain civil rights (or legal immunities) in order to achieve certain social rights, i.e. higher wages for employees. In this case a collective body exercises rights, whilst individual members of trade unions have no duties. I shall argue below, following Janoski (1998: 42-5) that these confusions can be resolved by recognising that citizenship rights need to be understood as clusters of variegated liberties, powers, claims and immunities that may attach to individuals or social collectivities such as unions.
Developments of Marshall’s Model of Industrial Citizenship
In this section I discuss attempts to develop Marshall's idea of industrial citizenship. Firstly, I examine Barbalet's 'individualist' defence of Marshall's original formulation. A second strand of developments of Marshall’s approach relates industrial citizenship to class conflict and globalisation (Giddens 1982; Gersuny 1994; Muller-Jentch 1991; Streeck 1997; Woodiwiss 2002). Finally, I examine those attempts to re-conceptualise industrial citizenship as 'participation rights' (Janoski 1998; Leisink and Beukema 1993 Streeck 1997). In each case I shall argue that they retain a liberal individualist conception of industrial citizenship and overlook the status of unions as collective subjects with industrial citizenship rights.
Barbalet presents one of the few extended discussions of Marshall’s analysis of industrial citizenship. He notes that unions do not have duties in the same way as individuals, suggesting that industrial rights – the rights of industrial citizenship – are rights permitting individuals to organise collective action in relation to their employment. Consequently he sees industrial citizenship as not just an extension of civil citizenship, because the correlative duties and responsibilities do not apply, and industrial rights may encroach on the civil rights of individual employers and employees. Barbalet argues that industrial rights in Marshall’s account are analogous to property rights. They are universally available but do not require everyone to be an employee just as property rights are universally available, but do not require everyone to be a property owner, yet require unions as the institutions through which these rights can be exercised (Barbalet 1988: 22-7). This account of industrial citizenship closely follows that of Marshall, and Barbalet essentially clarifies Marshall’s analysis of industrial citizenship, and locates it more clearly within his overall theory of citizenship than do other writers. However, there are several problems with this discussion.
Barbalet asserts that there is a consensus over industrial citizenship, as these rights serve the interests of employees as well as employers (Barbalet 1988: 27). However, as Giddens (1982: 172-3) originally noted, industrial citizenship has been continuously contested. As detailed in the case study below, in Britain considerable changes have been made to industrial citizenship rights since 1979, that have been hotly contested, and legislation regulating unions and their rights to organise have periodically been the source of considerable political conflict prior to that (McIlroy 1995). Furthermore, the assumption of consensus makes it difficult to explain the dramatic changes in the regime of industrial citizenship in Britain. The lack of consensus, and the perception by some that unions had ‘too much power’ over employers and others, also renders problematic Barbalet’s assumption that industrial citizenship unproblematically serves the interests of employers and employees. Many of the changes in British industrial citizenship since 1979 involve an explicit attempt to reduce or restructure citizenship rights in favour of employers, although this is by no means an unambiguous process or outcome.
Following Marshall, Barbalet still treats industrial citizenship as being concerned with individual rights. However, some industrial rights and obligations have the peculiar feature of being the rights of a collective or corporate body – the trade union – rather than the individual. This is perhaps most obviously the case where trade unions were granted immunity from civil suits for damages as a result of strike action. This applies to the union as a legal entity and not individual members. The changes to industrial rights in Britain since 1979 show that industrial citizenship involves both collective and individual rights, and this is one of the features that makes it distinct from the other dimensions of citizenship normally considered in the sociology of citizenship. Michael Mann has similarly recognised that some citizenship rights are collective rather than individual (Mann 1993: 19). However, he also treats the rights of unions as purely a form of civil rights, and apparently sees no reason to treat industrial citizenship as significant.
Barbalet sees unions as the institutions of industrial citizenship; yet, he also sees unions as bearers of at least some rights of industrial citizenship. This unacknowledged ambiguity is one he shares with Marshall. Perhaps it is best to see the rights of industrial citizenship as being ultimately guaranteed by the courts – as in the rights of civil citizenship – so that employers, employees and unions are subjects endowed with certain citizenship rights in the industrial sphere. Unions cannot be both, the subjects or bearers of citizenship rights, and the institutions through which they are secured and guaranteed, and indeed they are not. To draw a parallel with political rights, it would be as if political parties in liberal democratic states also acted as constitutional courts! The key institutions of industrial citizenship have varied over the years, some being created and others very recently destroyed. Increasingly the courts and the Arbitration, Conciliation and Advisory Service (ACAS) are significant as institutions of industrial citizenship. In this way it is useful to think of industrial citizenship, like other forms of citizenship, in terms of a regime: ‘… which is an ensemble of institutional arrangements, rules, and understandings…’ (Fudge, 2005: 4).
Following other commentators (Gersuny 1994; Giddens 1982; Muller-Jentsch 1991; Streeck 1997) I wish to emphasise the contradictory and contested character of industrial citizenship and that industrial citizenship rights may be lost or reversed as a result of its erosion. For this reason these attempts to use Marshall’s notion of Industrial Citizenship in relation to contemporary issues of economic restructuring, globalisation, conflict and workers’ rights are so interesting, yet also problematic as they retain a liberal individualist conception of industrial citizenship rights. For instance in his analysis of industrial citizenship in the USA Gersuny suggests that the concept of industrial citizenship should be expanded beyond the rights of trade unions to include: ‘…a right of citizens in ‘advanced’ societies to be shielded against wage competition from less developed countries’ (Gersuny 1994: 212).
This sees industrial citizenship as a form of incorporation of workers within the workplace and guaranteed by individual nation-states, they are also a form of exclusion at the boundary of the nation-state. These authors see industrial citizenship rights as threatened by globalisation through the capacity of transnational corporations to locate their activities in those economic zones with the weakest economic citizenship rights and the lowest wages (Gersuny, 1994; Woodiwiss, 2002). In this context Marshall’s evolutionary view of the development of citizenship is challenged, as civil, political, social and industrial citizenship as treated as distinct but mutually reinforcing (Gersuny, 1994: 223; Muller-Jentsch, 1991: 445). In general, however, they retain the main features of Marshall’s model of industrial citizenship. It is still a conception of industrial citizenship that is liberal to the core. It is still about the rights of individual workers.
Finally, some have suggested that industrial citizenship should be conceptualised in terms of rights to participate in the workplace that can be found in some European countries such as Germany (Janoski, 1998; Leisink and Beukema, 1993; Streeck, 1997: 644). However, in Britain this has been a very limited development. Furthermore, within the European model the rights and obligations of industrial citizenship attach to individuals with specific positions or roles within the economy, so that industrial citizenship is fundamentally structured by the class relationship between employer and employee. This idea that industrial citizenship rights and obligations under the German system of company law are attached to classes further strengthens the argument for industrial citizenship being quite distinct from political and civil citizenship. It also challenges the assumption that citizenship rights accrue from being a full member of a national-societal community, or some kind of transnational polity. This may be a necessary condition of any kind of citizenship, but following through the logic of this analysis, if you are not an employee you cannot be an ‘industrial citizen’ within the German model. On these grounds, within certain nation-states, the range of your citizenship rights depends upon your economic status within that society, what some have termed ‘group rights’ (Baubock, 1994: 266). Consequently it is still necessary to conceptualise different national regimes of industrial citizenship with distinctive trajectories of development.
Barbalet (1988) provides perhaps the only detailed discussions of industrial citizenship in the context of broader developments of citizenship theory. The principal weakness of his argument is the lack of attention to the specificity of industrial citizenship, especially collective rights. Others use the idea of industrial citizenship to analyse workers’ rights in the context of globalisation, economic restructuring and the related political conflicts (Gersuny 1994; Muller-Jentsch 1991; Woodiwiss 2002). Industrial citizenship has also been conceptualised as workplace participation rights (Janoski 1998; Leisink and Beukema 1993; Streeck 1997). Although they acknowledge that these rights arise due to group membership, that is, they can only be exercised by employees; they retain an individualist concept of citizenship and are limited to those regimes of industrial citizenship such as Germany where these rights are enshrined in law. All three approaches retain Marshall’s liberal individualist and undifferentiated conception of industrial rights and overlook the significance of the collective rights and obligations of unions. These theories of industrial citizenship fail to acknowledge the significance of trade unions as collective social actors that are bearers of rights, with liberties, immunities, claims and powers, and which may have legal obligations placed upon them. Such collective rights are crucial in the transformation from individualised labour to labour as a collective actor (Offe and Wiesenthal 1985) for the power resources (Korpi, 1978) of the working class.
Collective Rights and Industrial Citizenship
The idea of collective or group rights is one fraught with confusion in the citizenship literature (Baubock, 1994; Freeman 1995; Sypnowich 2000). I cannot resolve all of these difficult issues here, but merely pursue what I believe is the most productive way forward in helping re-conceptualise industrial citizenship. Some legal writings on industrial relations literature use the term ‘collective rights’. However, these conflate the rights of quite different types of legal subject. They refer to both the rights of individuals to belong to unions, for example, and the rights and immunities of unions as legal subjects in terms of collective rights (Barrow, 2001). From the perspective I am developing here, I want to argue that such approaches confuse the industrial citizenship rights of individuals with the rights of collective subjects such as unions.
The individualist and liberal assumptions of citizenship theory has its roots in Marshall, and group or collective rights are usually thought of the rights of ethnic groups, indigenous peoples, or some other culturally defined social entity (Delanty 2000: 78-9; Kymlicka 1995). Janoski (1998: 48-50) for instance sees group rights as particularistic and discriminatory, and leading to conflict, whilst others (e.g. Baubock 1994: 265-6) see them more positively as they help to buttress equality amongst individuals of different groups. These are largely normative issues, as conflict for instance could be a result of the denial of legitimate group rights, and conflict is characteristic of attempts to obtain or extend citizenship.
Although much of the work on collective rights is often culturalist and postmodernist in orientation, and celebrates the ‘politics of recognition’, I think the idea is crucial for understanding the dynamics of industrial citizenship, and can help us move beyond some of the conceptual confusions in the field. Freeman’s (1995) work on the idea of collective human rights in particular is helpful. As he notes, the idea that there are collective rights for corporations and associations is not controversial, as they have legal rights and obligations. What I want to use his argument to suggest is that the collective rights of unions are a form of collective human rights. He argues that rights are derived from fundamental interests, such as collective self-determination:
Collective human rights are, however, not reducible to individual human rights. The right to collective self-determination is not reducible to any set of individual human rights, though it may be dependent on and necessary for such rights. Liberal individualism has traditionally failed to recognise its own dependence on the assumption that nation-states have collective rights. (Freeman 1995: 39-40)
Liberal sociologists of citizenship have made similar assumptions about corporations being ‘allowed’ to have collective rights, whilst trade unions are mere aggregations of individual workers’ rights. Freeman’s argument elegantly and incisively reveals the bias of their normative assumptions. His argument applied to industrial citizenship enables us to see how unions’ rights to collective self-determination are not reducible to the individual rights of workers. Unions are dependent on the rights of individuals to be members of unions, and individual workers can often better pursue their individual rights when unions have strong collective rights.
This conception of collective rights that may conflict with other collectives’ rights supports my conception of industrial citizenship. The rights of labour and the rights of capital are in conflict, and under contemporary capitalism there is no rational solution to this conflict. It meshes with the idea that the rights of industrial citizenship are both the object and the terrain of institutionalised and juridified class struggle. Freeman’s arguments provide us with a theoretical underpinning for some key concepts of a critical sociology of industrial citizenship. However, what it lacks is some kind of account of how social collectives practice self-determination except as nation-states. The problem arises because the typical social collectivity that holds collective rights are national or ethnic groups. These are apparently passive ‘social collectivities’, and unions are something quite different, they are collective social actors. Baubock suggests that we should treat unions as corporate entities whose members benefit through the collective exercise of rights by the organisation that represents them in a manner that highlights the interdependence of individual and collective industrial citizenship rights:
A trade union may put a decision to go on strike to the test of a ballot among all its members. But the right to strike is a genuinely corporate one; it cannot be exercised by individual workers but only jointly by the association. (Baubock, 1994: 266)
Sociologists such as Hindess (1986) have argued that methodologically individualist approaches (such as Marshall’s) to social analysis are undermined when we recognise the influence of ‘social actors’ other than individuals. Such ‘social actors’ include unions, political parties and corporations which have aims and concerns that are irreducible to individual intentions (Hindess 1986). Furthermore, rights are discursive entities that may be ‘attached’ to both human and non-human actors (Woodiwiss 2002: 475).
Unions have concerns and objectives that are not reducible to those of individual employees and any concept of industrial citizenship should recognise this through the idea of collective rights. Legislation in Britain since the 1980s has recognised the significance of the means of decision-making and the means of action of unions, as these collective rights of autonomy, of self-determination of unions’ actions have been restricted by legislation. In the re-conceptualisation of industrial citizenship presented here collective rights apply to unions as collective social actors, and not to unions as social collectivities, and that these rights are often in conflict with those of employers as collective social actors.
In summary I am proposing a new model of industrial citizenship that consists of rights in the form of powers, liberties and immunities and duties in the form of obligations, constraints and liabilities. Specific instances of each of these can be ‘attached’ (Woodiwiss, 2002: 475) to unions as collective rights and duties or to individuals. In the case study that follows the changing balance between these for both unions and individuals and their effects is analysed.
The Changing Regime of Industrial Citizenship in Britain
Since the 1980s industrial citizenship in Britain has become increasingly individualised, and the powers, liberties and immunities of industrial citizenship have been diminished in favour of obligations, constraints and liabilities. Overall there has been a shift from collective rights to individual rights in the regime of industrial citizenship in Britain. However, this is not a simple transfer of rights from trade unions to individuals, as individuals have been given rights or liberties as members of unions rather than as employees since 1979. For example, since 1993 individuals have the right not to be expelled from a union (Smith and Morton 1994). The main conceptual point is that the overall trend in the legislation passed since 1979 is for unions to lose collective rights and for individuals to gain certain types of rights, usually against unions (Davies and Freedland 1993: 427-9). However, given the interdependence of collective rights and individual rights in industrial citizenship, overall both unions and individual employees have lost rights (Crouch 1996: 124).
Unions now face increasing compulsion over how they conduct their internal affairs as well as how they conduct actions such as strikes. This expresses a shift from legal powers to legal obligations for unions’ industrial citizenship. For example since 1984, national leaderships have been required to be elected every five years by secret ballot, and since 1993 any industrial action must be supported by a majority of the workforce participating in a postal ballot (Davies and Freedland 1993: 483-9; Marsh 1992; Smith and Morton 1994). These constitute new sets of legally enforceable obligations upon unions. As the collective industrial citizenship rights of unions have been eroded, then they have increasingly turned to newer forms of civil rights such as equal opportunities legislation relating to gender and race (Davies and Freedland 1993: 48-55) to pursue workplace struggles. Unions may be using the newer civil rights of individual employees in compensation for their loss of collective citizenship rights; for instance ACAS is used by unions to secure the rights of individual members (Dickens 2002; Meager et. al., 2002).
One of the traditional features of union power in Britain was the 'closed shop', an arrangement whereby all employees in a particular workplace were normally required to be members of a union. The ‘closed shop’ constituted a significant collective power for British unions that effectively created an individual obligation of industrial citizenship on individual employees in ‘closed shops’ – a ‘duty’ to join the union. This is now almost extinct due to legislation (Davies and Freedland 1993: 450-4 and 473-6). Millward et. al. found that ‘closed shop’ types of arrangement covered five million British workers in 1980, but only half of a million by 1990, and had fallen even further by 1998 (Millward et. al. 1992; 2000). This is a loss of a collective right for British unions, but has removed a duty of industrial citizenship for many employees. Furthermore, some unions in Britain traditionally had some control over the labour market, and these collective powers have also been lost with such arrangements being made unlawful (Davies and Freedland 1993: 473-6).
The loss of certain collective liberties of industrial citizenship for unions is most evident in legislation concerning the conduct of internal union affairs that involved a loss of autonomy for unions over how they conduct their business, for example by requiring postal ballots for a wide range of routine union activities, such as creating a ‘political fund’, seeking their members' authority to deduct subscriptions direct from salaries every three years (Davies and Freedland 1993: 483-9; Marsh 1992; Smith and Morton 1994). This legislation involves a loss of union autonomy, and a loss of collective rights in the form of liberties, and new industrial citizenship rights to individual union members. However, these are rights not available to all employees, only those who are union members. Unions have lost both powers of action and liberties, whilst having new constraints and obligations placed upon them. The development of the powers of union members against their unions consists of rights to participate in union postal ballots, but also the liberty not to be disciplined by a union. These rights were bolstered by the creation of a Commissioner for the Rights of Trade Union Members in 1988 (Davies and Freedland 1993: 502-3; Lockwood 2000). This government body aided individual union members with legal action against their unions, effectively acting as an institution of industrial citizenship.
A most important collective immunity of unions’ industrial citizenship was lost between 1980 and 1990, when legislation narrowed the definition of a strike making secondary action, strikes over inter-union disputes and industrial action against non-unionised companies unlawful in relation to unions’ legal immunities (Davies and Freedland 1993; Marsh 1992). This was replaced by a new collective obligation of industrial citizenship on unions from 1993 onwards as they were required to obtain support for industrial action from their members by postal ballot, give employers seven days notice of the ballot, the commencement of action and its nature, and be informed about which employees will be participating (Undy et. al. 1996: 136-8). This legislation can be thought of as involving the loss of unions’ collective powers with respect to how they organise industrial action. Yet at the same time this involved the loss of individual industrial citizenship rights by employees, as their power resources (Korpi, 1978) have been undermined. This loss of collective rights for unions emphasises the analytical importance of the distinction between the collective rights of unions and the rights of individuals in industrial citizenship.
However, the loss of individual rights of industrial citizenship has also been significant was for those who strike. Employers became able to ‘selectively dismiss’ employees involved in either ‘official’ or ‘unofficial’ strikes (Davies and Freedland 1993: 516; Marsh 1992). This opened up the possibility of the victimisation of union activists, and it significantly increased the risks of participating in industrial action for the individual striker.
The effects of all these changes by the middle of the 1990s were essentially that: the closed shop became unlawful; strikers could be sacked; unions had to use postal ballots to organise any type of collective action and carry out any significant internal activities, such as organise strikes, elect leaders, donate funds to political parties and merge with other unions; the internal running of unions is tightly regulated by law and the courts; individual union members have numerous rights and access to state resources to challenge their own unions; secondary and unofficial action are largely unlawful; and the most significant legal immunities have been lost. The loss of immunities is especially important as unions could now be sued by employers for economic losses and damages, and legal action against unions has broken major strikes by some of Britain’s strongest unions (McIlroy 1995: 253-62).
The changing regime of industrial citizenship has involved the loss of unions’ collective rights, the loss of some individual union members’ rights against their employer, but the gain of union members rights against their union. Prior to the legislation of the 1980s and 1990s industrial citizenship in Britain was characterised by immunity for unions, in a way quite unique compared to many European countries. It is now characterised by legal compulsion with severe penalties for failure to comply almost as unique within Europe (Undy et. al. 1996: 263-83). It has moved from being based largely upon the collective rights of unions to immunity from civil suits when they organised strikes, to a highly juridified form where both collective and individual liberties, immunities and powers of unions and workers were severely restricted.
The introduction of these legislative changes has been one of experiment and incrementalism aiming to avoid the direct union-state conflicts of the 1970s (Davies and Freedland 1993; Kessler and Bayliss 1998: 71; Marsh 1992: 64; McIlroy 1995: 248-9; Undy et. al. 1996). However, from the perspective developed here it should be seen as ‘ruling class strategy of citizenship’ (Mann, 1993) that has ‘eroded’ (Turner, 2001) the collective citizenship of unions to create what is effectively a new regime of industrial citizenship. But what was the impact of this new regime?
Since 1979 British unions have experienced a 'crisis of representation' (McIlroy 1995: 366), and together with the decline in strikes, this constitutes the principal issue where there is debate about the effects of these changes. In 1979 union membership peaked at over 12.5 million (55 per cent of employees) (Waddington 1992: 290) and 2002 had fallen to less than 7.4 million (just over 29 per cent of employees) (Labour Market Trends 2003: 338). Similarly there has been a well documented fall in strike levels to an average between 1992 and 2001 of 496,000 working days lost per year (Monger 2003b: 285) compared to averages in the 1950s and 1960s of over 3.5 million working days lost per annum, with an average of 12.8 million per annum in the 1970s and 7.2 million in the 1980s (Kessler and Bayliss 1998: 243). In the 1990s strike action had fallen to historic lows with typically between 10 and 20 working days lost per 1,000 employees each year and between 200 and 300 stoppages annually (Monger 2002b: 286). There were only 146 stoppages in 2002, the lowest on record, with 49 per cent of these lasting one day (Monger 2002b: 295). Since 1992 the strike rate (working days not worked per thousand employees) in the UK has been below the EU and OECD averages almost every year (Monger 2003a: 181). There has also been a decline in the recognition of unions by employers and a decline in the proportion of employees covered by collective agreements to around 35 per cent in 2001 (Labour Market Trends 2002: 351) compared to 71 per cent in 1984 (Kessler and Bayliss 1998: 119). In terms of both representation and collective action there has been a dramatic change since the 1970s, but what role has the transformation of the regime of industrial citizenship played in this?
Changes in the composition of the workforce have played a role in declining membership with the shift of economic activity from workplaces with high union densities to those with little or no union membership (Bryson and Gomez 2002; Waddington 1992). Against this some have argued that legislation has played a direct role in the decline of union membership (Freeman and Pelletier 1990). Although in the early 1980s the closure of large unionised workplaces was significant, during the late 1980s, at least, compositional change had no impact on union density (Bryson and Gomez 2002: 55), and that it was legislation against the closed shop in particular that had an impact (Millward et. al. 2000: 231). From this we can conclude that the transformation of the regime of industrial citizenship has had a major effect on unions and the power resources (Korpi, 1978) of the working class in the UK.
The falling strike rate has also been influenced by changes in the composition of the workforce (Milner and Metcalf 1993: 237). The direct influence of the erosion of industrial citizenship on strikes partly depends on the propensity of employers to use the legislation, and aside from a few high profile cases the use of injunctions by employers against unions has been limited. Between 1983 and 1996 there were only 169 applications for injunctions by employers (Gall and McKay 1996). More directly secondary action and picketing have been affected by the loss of certain liberties to organise these types of collective action, as their incidence fell markedly in the late 1980s (Millward et. al. 1992; 302-9). The most detailed study of the legislation on ballots concluded that it was insignificant in reducing the strike rate (Undy et. al. 1996: 228), although unions use ballots strategically as part of the bargaining process (Elgar and Simpson 1993: 103-6). The impact of legislation was more indirect through the threat of sanctions rather than their actual use (Undy et. al. 1996: 236). The transformation of the regime of industrial citizenship in Britain has thus resulted in the erosion of industrial citizenship for unions and their members. Both collective and individual powers, liberties and immunities have been lost, whilst additional constraints, obligations and liabilities were put in place. The case of the UK during the later years of the last century exemplifies how industrial citizenship may be eroded and regimes of industrial citizenship transformed.
Against Marshall’s individualist conception of industrial citizenship I have argued that industrial citizenship rights are both collective and individual. Many general discussions of Marshall’s analysis of citizenship frequently overlook the industrial dimension, and those that do use the idea borrow it relatively uncritically from Marshall, thus overlooking the importance of collective rights for unions. I have also argued that there is an inter-dependence of collective and individual rights in regimes of industrial citizenship. The rights of individual workers are meaningless without the collective rights of unions to defend them. Marshall’s original discussion of citizenship suggested that citizenship rights were progressively gained, consolidated and irreversible. There was no real consideration of whether or not they could be lost or eroded. I have shown using the case study of the UK in the latter years of the last century that some citizenship rights, both individual and collective, can be eroded to a significant degree.
Between 1980 and 1993 Conservative governments transformed industrial citizenship in Britain. Broadly it became individualised through unions losing certain collective powers, liberties and immunities. Unions now face collective obligations and duties, whilst individual union members, employers and citizens have new powers and can make new claims against unions. The political struggles around the 'rules of class struggle' in the 1980s and early 1990s have created a new regime of industrial citizenship quite alien from what Marshall would have envisaged. This new form of industrial citizenship has had both direct and indirect impacts on the internal organisation of unions, their size and their ability to organize collective action. This paper has demonstrated that it is conceptually necessary to move beyond Marshall in theorising industrial citizenship and that the new conception proposed here can be usefully applied to nationally specific regimes of industrial citizenship.
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