2023 Abstracts Stage 3

Fractured Unions: The Historicization of the Trade Union Movement and the Fight to Incite the Tolerant

Chloe Hutchinson, 2023, Stage 3

The fragmentation of the modern workforce means that trade unions now face the challenge of making themselves appear both relevant and useful to people’s working lives. Increasingly precarious and service based jobs mean that people no longer identify with their work as strongly as they once did, and increasingly isolated jobs make it hard to connect with other workers both mentally and physically.

Industrial action is only possible through mass organisation and, the aged concept of what the unions represent, who and what they are fighting for is an increasing problem for the unions and the people they claim to defend. Engaging workers in their defensive aims against unfair working practices and low wages whilst funding this action through membership maintenance is a constant battle for the Trade unions.

This project seeks to address the issue of inciting action amongst an increasingly tolerant workforce resigned to mistreatment as a standard, due to the problems of late stage capitalism. It will make use of Gramsci’s Marxism in exploring the historicization of the trade union movement, and to provide a springboard for potential actions which could reinstate the trade unions into every workers mind as their first line of defence for fair and fulfilling working practices.

The stage of the modern workforce will be set by Virno’s postmodern neomarxist thought, in describing the fragmentary nature of our industries and working identities. To fight for a cause, a person must first identify with it, and be given sufficient evidence that the fight is worth their increasingly diminished time and effort.

The current wave of strike action along with the governments minimum service levels bill has brought the trade unions back into the national consciousness providing an opportune period to reinstate themselves in workers minds as the defensive institutions they claim to be. The minimum service levels bill will be used as an object to orientate the discussion, in its blatant attack on the right to strike for all of the UK workforce while using the fragmented nature of work to its advantage.

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