Fatally divided? An analysis of the role micro-political divisions played in the trade unions’ loss of the 1986–1987 News International dispute : An analysis of the role micro-political divisions played in the trade unions’ loss of the 1986-87 News International dispute
On 5 February 1987, the Society of Graphical and Allied Trades (SOGAT) National Executive Committee voted to end its dispute with News International Limited. One day later, the National Graphical Association (NGA) National Council followed suit. These decisions brought to a close one of the most bitter and acrimonious industrial disputes of the twentieth century. There has been a wide variety of explanations as to why the unions’ action at News International in 1986–1987 was unsuccessful. Many authors have asserted that the dispute was unwinnable, whatever tactics the unions had deployed, owing to a combination of technological advancements and a hostile political environment. Others have stated that the loss occurred because of tactical errors, occupational divisions, gender segregation and geographical schisms. Within all these analyses, the role played by micro-political factors, such as personal enmities, friendships and loyalties, is noted, but is not credited with contributing significantly to the unions defeat. This article puts forward an alternative hypothesis: that the unions’ defeat was not inevitable, and that internal micro-political divisions contributed significantly to the unions defeat. Specifically, it argues that dysfunctional micro-political relationships inside SOGAT and the personal enmity that existed between the union’s General Secretary, Brenda Dean, and her NGA counterpart, Tony Dubbins, played a critical role in the unions’ devastating defeat.