Historical Studies in Industrial Relations

Striking Facts about the ‘Winter of Discontent’

Historical Studies in Industrial Relations (2015), 36, (1), 205–218.

Abstract

The recent books by John Shepherd and Tara Martin López on the Winter of Discontent of 1978–79 provide an opportunity to examine the experience and tactics of several of its strikes and to challenge standard statistical views of its strike record. The main conclusion is to stress the continuity of the local authority and National Health Service disputes of 1979 with their antecedents from 1969 to 1973. Evidence is provided to show that previous instances of mountains of rubbish and unburied corpses did not attract much opprobrium (it is likely that earlier industrial action in the NHS was also generally tolerated). The sensationalization of events by politicians (of both hues) and by some of the media was contingent on a particular set of economic and political circumstances.

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Author details

Lyddon, Dave