winter of Discontent

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The wave of strike action in the winter of 1978–9 which preceded the election of Margaret Thatcher as UK Prime Minister and was used to legitimize the programme of Conservative trade union reform through the 1980s and 1990s. The strikes represented a rejection by many groups of workers of the Labour government's incomes policy, which had led to a fall in real earnings for public sector employees and many skilled workers in the private sector. For critics, the Winter of Discontent exemplified the problem of ‘excessive’ union power in the UK and the symbol of callous strike action, ‘when the dead lay unburied’, has been used repeatedly since then as a stick to beat the trade union movement.

Subjects: Human Resource Management.

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