British disease

Quick Reference

In the 1970s, the British disease was defined narrowly in terms of strike proneness and as a more general malaise, the symptoms of which were strong unions, restrictive practices, low productivity, and poor relative economic performance. In fact, the British workforce has never been unusually strike prone, and whilst strike activity was high in the 1970s this reflected an international trend. Many believe that the British disease was cured by Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher in the 1980s through her government's programme of anti-trade union law. Today strike activity is at an all-time low but other symptoms of the disease, such as relatively low productivity and poor manufacturing performance, persist (see Leitch Review). This suggests that trade unions have been blamed excessively for the UK's poor relative economic performance. [See Winter of Discontent.]

Subjects: Human Resource Management.

Reference entries