The militant shop floor : radical industrial action in the United Kingdom, 1969-1977

  • Jordan Chris Brown

Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis (PhD)


The Ulster Workers Council (UWC) in 1974 was a powerful demonstration of militant trade unionism and the ability of trade unionists to deliver significant changes to government policy. The UWC should not be considered a Loyalist paramilitary action but instead an instance of militant trade union activism. During the 1970s, many trade unionist campaigns across the United Kingdom were driven by a desire to overturn government policy. These campaigns were not exclusively concerned about industrial concerns like wages and pensions and instead wanted to harness public opinion to overturn government policy. Organisation like the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) and the Upper Clyde Shipbuilder (UCS) established tactics that that incorporated dissatisfaction with current societal conditions within a framework of trade unionism. This was paired with an acceptable level of protest. Staying within the boundaries of appropriate activism was vital to maintain public support. Equally the UWC understood that while the conditions of Northern Ireland pushed the boundaries of protest further than in Great Britain, it was still important to remain disciplined. This study will highlight how these similarities between the NUM and UCS proliferated across the Irish Sea to the UWC strike of 1974. The trade unionist backgrounds of the UWC should not be considered merely a footnote but rather the foundation of its success. The UWC’s ability to remove the Sunningdale Agreement with a general strike is one of the biggest achievements of trade unionists during the post-war era. It was not a radical action exclusive to Northern Ireland but instead part of wider increase in shopfloor militancy. This study will illustrate how solidarity can be cultivated beyond the shopfloor and how trade unionists pushed the boundaries of what was considered industrial action.
Date of Award30 Nov 2022
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • University of St Andrews
SupervisorColin Craig Kidd (Supervisor) & Malcolm Robert Petrie (Supervisor)


  • Trade unionism
  • Northern Ireland
  • The Troubles
  • Industrial action
  • Ulster Workers Council
  • UWC
  • Upper Clyde Shipbuilders
  • UCS
  • Trade unionist
  • Scottish trade unions
  • Industrial action in Scotland
  • Coal miners
  • Ship builders
  • National Union of Miners
  • NUM
  • British trade unionism
  • 1970S

Access Status

  • Full text embargoed until
  • 26th October 2026

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