From a position of near obscurity in the 1920s, NUPE grew to become one of the most important forces in the trade union movement in the 1970s, playing a key role in some of the major struggles of that decade and beyond.
The authors throw new light on NUPE’s relationship with the Labour governments of Harold Wilson and James Callaghan (1974-79), and analyse for the first time from the union’s perspective the events that became known as the ‘Winter of Discontent’ - an analysis that is more important today than ever. They convincingly argue that accounts which hold the dispute responsible for the demise of the Labour government, and thus for opening the way for Thatcherism, are inadequate and misleading - often deliberately so; in general such accounts are based on a deprecation of public services, public service labour and the ‘social wage’.
These developments are discussed in relation to the role of union leadership and considerations of organisation and democracy, revealing much that will be of interest to activists and students of trade unionism alike.
Read an extract from the book’s winter of discontent chapter - which first outlines criticism of the union during the dispute and then refutes the criticism.
Professor Bob Fryer CBE is Chair of the Campaign for Learning UK and a Board member of NIACE, former Chief Learning Advisor and National Director for Widening Participation in Learning in the Department of Health, and former Chief Executive of the NHS University. Before that he was Assistant Vice Chancellor at the University of Southampton and Principal of the Northern College for Residential Adult Education. He has published extensively in the fields of trades unionism, industrial relations and adult education. His latest book, Promises of Freedom: Citizenship, Belonging and Lifelong Learning, was published in 2010.
Stephen Williams co-authored the previous volumes of NUPE history, Serving the Public-Building the Union (1987) and (with Bob Fryer) A Century of Service (1993), and has written extensively on working-class and socialist history. He began work with NUPE’s research department in 1979, where he specialised in activist education, and retired from UNISON in 2011, having led the union’s pioneering work on second chance learning for members