Tuesday, 13 March 2012
The Worker & The Law: Bill Wedderburn
Colleagues, I am working away from home at the moment with that fine trade union and professional body the Association of Education Psychologists (AEP) at their base in Durham. I have just discovered however the passing away of one of those people who were central to my generation's understanding of the fundamental importance of free, independent trade unionism to the maintenance to essential liberties for the worker in liberal society.
Bill Wedderburn's textbooks on comparative labour law set the understanding of our approach to analysing and understanding how trade unions should best apply statutory rights to secure their long-term future. Weddurburn was for me, and many trade unionists like me who became trade unionists under Thatcher, a beacon of rationality and perspective.
Read his obituary in the Guardian to get a grip of why many in the movement mourn his passing: http://www.guardian.co.uk/law/2012/mar/12/lord-wedderburn-of-charlton
As you'll see Bill was central (amongst many other achievements) to the creation of the Institute of Employment Rights and I am proud to record the close association of one of my employers, the GFTU, to the Institute and of the contining importance of the Institute to providing the UK trade union movement with a legal perspective on those issues of central importance.
Bill Wedderburn's legacy is phenomenal and I am particulalry keen to acknowledge his understanding that UK trade unionism did not fare well under New Labour. I would also say that students of labour and trade union studies should take the time to read his first publication, as I did as a student at Ruskin in the 80s, The Worker & The State, as he creates a deeply analytical and philosophical rationale for the central relevance of trade unions in free societies.
Bill was an influential figure during that critical phase during the 60s and 70s of trade union history and without whom trade unionism in the UK, despite its current beleagured state, would not be in a state of resilience and in a position to fight back against the coalition.
As Joe Hill said though, let us not mourn, and as Bill would have wanted, let us organise!