Oral Labour History: Its value for trade unions – The “Winter of Discontent” 1978/9

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Date: 14/05/2016
Time: 11:00 am - 4:45 pm

Oral Labour History: Its value for trade unions

The “Winter of Discontent” 1978/9


Britain at Work (B@W) 1945-95 in association with British Universities

Industrial Relations (BUIRA) IR History Group and Oral History Society (OHS)

 Saturday 14 May 2016 11am-4.45pm

Diskus Centre, Unite the Union, 128 Theobald’s Road, London WC1X 8TN


If you would like to attend, please contact Michael Gold (m.gold@rhul.ac.uk) or Linda Clarke (clarkel@wmin.ac.uk)


‘Until lions have their historians, tales of the hunt shall always glorify the hunters’

African Proverb

Once again the Britain at Work (B@W) group is organising Oral Labour History Day. This year’s theme is the significance of oral history for trade unions focussing particularly on the so-called “Winter of Discontent” of 1978/9.

The day will begin with an opening address by Rodney Bickerstaffe, former General Secretary of Unison, followed by round table introductions on projects in which symposium participants are involved. After lunch a real time interview will be conducted with a trade unionist involved in the struggles of that momentous period, and journalist and former BBC political and industrial correspondent Nick Jones will review the media coverage followed by a panel discussion. All those engaged in or with an interest in oral labour history, and particularly trade unionists, are welcome to participate.

B@W is an initiative to capture the memories of people at work between 1945 and 1995, some of which are to found at the TUC Library Collections held at London Metropolitan University (www.unionhistory.info/britainatwork). Working life as experienced during the half-century 1945-1995 was marked by extreme diversity and change and by the growth of trade union organisation and influence to a high point in the mid-1970s, the so-called ‘Winter of Discontent’. The trade union movement injected a strong democratic current into British workplaces, to which management responded in different ways, as evident from the significant conflicts between unions and employers, associated with wage and employment conditions, technological change, de-industrialisation and new union legislation.


10.30am:        Coffee/ tea

11.00am:        Welcome and introduction: Linda Clarke

11.15–12.00    Opening address and discussion: Rodney Bickerstaff, Lessons to be learnt, people to be remembered from the Winter of Discontent

12.00–1.00      B@W updates: Round table introductions: Five minutes from symposium participants (if they wish), on who they are and their interest in labour history

1.00 – 2.00      Lunch

2.00 – 2.45      Session 1: Why and how trade unions can be involved in oral history, including a real time interview conducted by Helen Hague (journalist) with a trade unionist on the ‘Winter of Discontent’

2.45 – 3.15      Session 2: Nick Jones, on the media portrayal of trade union struggles 1978/79

3.15 – 3.30      Break

3.30 – 4.30      Session 3: Panel Discussion on the “Winter of Discontent“: chaired by Michael Gold

4.30 – 4.45      Conclusion: Round up by Ann Field