Inflation Echoes

Winter of discontent

As Britain’s council workers prepare to strike over wages against a backdrop of rising prices and the spectre of continuing inflation returning to the British political scene it’s easy to envisage that we may be at the start of a chain of events that could bring challenges as great as those experienced during the 1970’s.

Of course conditions are different but it’s always worth looking to history for parallels. The recent tanker drivers 14% pay award mimics a chain of pay awards that begat a chain of ‘me too’ strikes across Britain as both the Conservative and then Labour governments of the time tried to cap the size of pay awards against a backdrop of rising prices.

We had many more nationalised industries then over which the government could exert pressure. Indeed sanctions were put in place against many companies both in the public and private sector that awarded pay increases above the governments percentage guidelines and Chancellor Alistair Darling has been making very similar noises by urging firms not to give in to the demands of employees for wage increases as the higher cost of living begins to bite.

I have no doubt that globally we are entering a very challenging economic period so it will be interesting to see how how Britain manages an increasing period jostling for wage settlements and how it will differ when compared  to the so-called ‘winter of discontent‘ of 1978-79.

A timeline of the events leading up to the winter of discontent 1978-79

Timelines blog

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2 thoughts on “Inflation Echoes

  1. It is hard to believe that things will get as bad as the Winter of Discontent but I am sure that in early 1978 the man/woman in the street would probably have said the same thing.

    No-one is going to make the “Crisis, what crisis?” gaffe this time though – the “crisis” word has been bandied about for ages now.

    I am not sure how much sympathy there is for public sector workers asking for a better pay award in the current climate. There didn’t seem to be a lot on the radio phone-in that I listened to earlier.

  2. I know it’s not an ideal parallel but I do see the potential for ongoing unrest.I think we’ll see steady discontent over rising prices which could result in an increasing number of pay claims.Phone-ins and BBC have your say tends to show that hardly anybody thinks anyone else has a legitimate claim to higher wages no matter if teacher, fireman, tanker driver or policeman.Last week everyone despised the tanker drivers on 32k pa but they got their 14% pay award. I do expect a lot of jostling for position as the cost of living increases.We’ll see over the coming 18 months if we’re really that changed as a nation.

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