Annual Review Article 1995

Date01 March 1996
Published date01 March 1996
DOIhttp://doi.org/10.1111/j.1467-8543.1996.tb00475.x
British Journal
of
Industrial
Relations
34:l
March
1996
0007-1080
pp.
151-69
Annual Review Article
1995
John
Goodman
Abstract
This paper follows the pattern
of
most
of
its predecessors, first
in
serving
as
a
record
of
events and developments
in
some areas germane to the employment
relationship
in
Britain between October
1994
and October
1995,
and second
in
offering some interpretative comment
on
elements
of
continuity and
change. The decelerating economic recovery brought continuing but modest
reductions
in
unemployment and some increase
in
price inflation. However,
tax increases, perceived job insecurity, generally low earnings increases and
other factors inhibited any widespread sense
of
economic well-being and
restrained consumer demand. Among the key events were the TUC‘s strategic
initiative
on
employee representation and union recognition, and the debates
surrounding the Greenbury Report
on
executive remuneration packages and
a national minimum wage. Industrial disputes reached record lows. Employ-
ment prospects, job insecurity and work-related stress were recurrent issues,
with the different approaches
of
the main political parties
to
employment
matters being clarified ahead
of
the coming general election.
1.
Introduction
For what, apart from the long hot summer, will
1995
be remembered by
analysts and students
of
industrial relations? Long-established downward
trends in trade union membership and in recorded industrial disputes
continued, though governmental pressures towards more local (trust-based)
bargaining in the NHS were pressed to the point at which the Royal Colleges
of
both Nursing and Midwives jettisoned their defining embargoes on
industrial action. The key centre of attention in pay determination was not
the toolroom or the classroom, but the boardroom
-
with directors’ and
senior executives’ pay, share option schemes and other ‘compensations’
attracting sufficient attention to prompt the CBI and others to establish an
inquiry aimed at redefining the rules and restoring at least passive
legitimacy. There was no new unifying development giving a greater
coherence to human resource management (Marchington,
1995),
though
business process re-engineering and bullying at work rose in prominence on
the conference circuit and in the media.
John Goodman
is
at the Manchester School
of
Management, UMIST.
@
Blackwell Publishers Ltd/London School
of
Economics 1996. Published by Blackwell Publishers Ltd,
108
Cowley Road, Oxford, OX4 lJF, and
238
Main Street, Cambridge, MA 02141,
USA.
152
British Journal
of
Industrial Relations
Among the political parties, the Government reached new lows in the
opinion polls, with the Prime Minister precipitating a leadership contest
designed in part to quiet the voice of Euro- and other rebels and to reduce
patent levels of disunity. In contrast, the Labour Party’s lead in the polls
reached record highs, and its new leader enjoyed an extended honeymoon
period during which the party’s historic Clause IV was replaced and
measures were taken to reduce the constitutional position and influence of
the trade unions still further. The TUC finally shifted its strategic policy
behind a Euro-style statutory framework of representational and other
rights for all employees, and there were further judicial decisions on part-
time employees’ rights, again demonstrating the tensions between Europ-
ean and current British law. In the same vein, a number of multinationals
(British and otherwise) began to introduce European works councils in this
country, notwithstanding the Maastricht ‘opt-out’. Important as these
developments may prove in future years, the single event that in some senses
may count as the most historic was an institutional deletion, namely the
demise of the Department of Employment, and the scattering of its various
functions among other Whitehall departments whose central focus is
elsewhere.
2.
Theeconomy
As readers subject to the new external assessment of teaching quality will
understand, there can be differences between perceived performance and
assessed performance. However, as evidenced by the conventional statist-
ical indicators, over the 12 months to October 1995 the UK economy
continued to perform in a broadly favourable manner, although in some
regards less favourably than in the preceding 12 months. Following the long
and deep recession at the turn of the decade, economic growth resumed in
1992, and rose to 4.2 per cent in 1994, peaking in the last quarters. Levels of
growth dropped during 1995, leading many to question whether the
recovery was stalling. Economic management proved contentious as the
Chancellor of the Exchequer sought to apply the levers in ways that would
temper the strong growth (in order to limit inflation), but sustain its
duration. Interest base rates were raised by
0.5
per cent three times between
September 1994 and February 1995
-
raising the level to 6.75 per cent,
while the November 1994 budget, plus phased measures announced earlier,
brought a substantial increase in taxation. During the early summer of 1995
economic forecasters and analysts differed over both the timing and
direction of future interest rate changes
-
a difference dramatized by the
Chancellor’s public refusal of the Governor of the Bank of England’s advice
that a further interest rate rise was necessary if the Government’s target for
the underlying inflation rate (below 2.5 per cent by the end of the Parliament
in spring 1997) was to be achieved. In late July the Chancellor of the
Exchequer said that ‘enough had been done to slow down the economy as
@
Blackwell Publishers
LtWndon
School
of
Economics
1996.

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