Historical Studies in Industrial Relations

The Bullock Committee, Industrial Democracy, and the Trade Unions: The Revolution that Never Was

Historical Studies in Industrial Relations (2020), 41, (1), 213–228.

Abstract

The report of the Bullock Committee on Industrial Democracy aimed to transform British industrial relations by instituting worker directors on the board of large companies. This transformation never took place. A minority report by the three committee members representing business interests opposed putting workers’ representatives on the board. The aftermath was even more disappointing: the Labour government’s White Paper diluted several of Bullock’s recommendations but before legislation could be tabled, in May 1979, the incoming Conservative government led by Margaret Thatcher declared that the Bullock recommendations would never be enacted.

The goal of industrial democracy is to reduce the autocratic power of management and give all employees greater control of their working lives. Given the weakness of trade unions today, it is time to look again at statutory works councils in Germany and representation of a minority of worker directors on the board, both elected by all employees. This would give workers and their unions information about the state of the company and about management intentions.

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Author details

Edmonds, John