The Development of Trade Unions in Britain Essay

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The Development of Trade Unions in Britain There are many different factors as to why trade unions developed so incredibly slowly in Britain. The problems started from the 1850s when New Model Unions were introduced. The ASE (Amalgamated Society of Engineers) had been formed in 1851 and had become the inspiration for other unions in similar areas of craftsmanship to be formed. Many people liked the idea of a union because it gave them certain protection like that of wages and standards of living and benefits for ill and unemployed members and so joined a union which appealed to them. One of the first setbacks which was unnoticed for some time was the fact that these New Model Unions had entry…show more content…
Some unions experienced difficulties in regard to their funds being stolen by treasurers or members and the realisation that their funds were not 100% legally protected because they were in 'restraint of trade' which meant that funds were not protected by the Friendly Societies Act. Societies registered under the Act were accused of 'acting too much like a union' and funds were not covered because unions were liable to strike. On the plus side, the formation of the Royal Commission on Trade Unions was set up in the late 60s which turned out to be a great advantage to Trade Unions because of the Minority Report created by Frederic Harrison, Thomas Hughes and the Earl of Lichfield. They argued that trade unions should be given privileged legal status and Harrison proposed several changes to the law : 1) People who joined should not be liable for indictment for conspiracy unless their actions would be criminal if committed by a single person; 2) The common law doctrine of restraint of trade in its application to trade associations should be repealed; 3) That all legislation dealing with specifically with the activities of employers or workmen should be repealed; 4) That all trade unions should receive full and positive protection for their funds and other property. Funds later became protected under the 1871 Trade Union Act which meant that court action could be used if necessary.

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