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strikestemporary stoppages of work by a group of employees in order to express a grievance or enforce a demand (Hyman, 1984).
The strike is a basic sanction possessed by employees, the threat of which plays a large part in INDUSTRIAL RELATIONS. However it is typically an act of last resort, and only one of the means by which INDUSTRIAL CONFLICT is expressed. The popular view, particularly in the UK, that strikes are a major problem ignores a number of factors:
- consideration of strikes in isolation is liable to mislead as to the overall character of industrial relations;
- the number of working days lost as the result of strikes is small compared with those lost as the result of illness or accidents;
- strikes vary in character, from brief stoppages to drawn out trials of strength;
- discussion of strikes is plagued by definitional and measurement problems. Statistics of strikes record numbers per year, the extent of labour force involvement, working days lost, industrial location, and immediate cause. However international differences in criteria and the unreliability of British data reduce the value of comparisons;
- researchers have found it difficult to establish any simple links between the incidence of strikes and economic performance. For all these reasons accounting for the causes and assessing the implications of strikes would seem to involve a degree of complexity little captured by either public discussion or official statistics. There is little doubt that single-factor explanations of strikes (e.g. the presence of agitators, faulty communications, etc.) are inadequate. More satisfactory explanations have considered the range of local and national factors which affect employees’ willingness and ability to undertake strikes, including the actions of employers and governments. See also TRADE(S) UNION, ARBITRATION AND CONCILIATION.