British steel strike pits union and government

As Britain's steel strike starts its sixth week, what began as a wage wrangle has proved to be the first real encounter of union artillery and government armor, Monitor correspondent Rushworth M. Kidder reports.

The union are jubilant over Friday's decision by the House of Lords to grant immunity to strikers picketing private steel plants -- even though the unions, which are striking against the nationalized British Steel Corporation, have no quarrel with the private firms. The unions now intend to stop all steel manufacturing, importing, and distribution in the country, thus forcing the government to provide more funds to the corporation.

But the industry secretary, Sir Keith Joseph, backed by the conviction that free-market forces must determine the future of British business, argues that British steelmaking is rusting away because 15 years of ill-considered government handouts have postponed the need for the industry to become internationally competitive.

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