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By 1888 and 1889, new trade unions had used a series of strikes to gain better employment conditions for their members. This clip is introduced by Ben Tillet, who discusses the key problems for labourers in the 1880s and his work to promote greater equality. Many of the unions managed to increase wages and guarantee four hours of work per day. By 1891, one in four workers had become members of new unions, but the influences did not last long as by 1896, only one in ten remained in the new unions.
This clip is from:
First broadcast:
28 May 2008

Classroom Ideas

Ask students to make a list of the complaints made by Ben Tillet in this clip, then estimate how successful the unions were in bringing about change and consider their impact on working conditions. Look into the impact of strike action in the cases mentioned and in other cases across Britain. How do these compare with earlier attempts at strike action, such as the Radical War or 1820 Uprising? Investigate employment problems faced by union members at the time. Compare the situation with that of unions in Britain today, and with the organisation of workers in other countries, particularly in Less Economically Developed Countries.