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The Winter of DiscontentMyth, Memory, and History$
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Tara Martin López

Print publication date: 2014

Print ISBN-13: 9781781380291

Published to Liverpool Scholarship Online: January 2015

DOI: 10.5949/liverpool/9781781380291.001.0001

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Freezers of Corpses and Sea Burials: The Liverpool Gravediggers' Strike

Freezers of Corpses and Sea Burials: The Liverpool Gravediggers' Strike

(p.110) 5 Freezers of Corpses and Sea Burials: The Liverpool Gravediggers' Strike
The Winter of Discontent

Tara Martin López

Liverpool University Press

The chapter examines the most notorious strike of the Winter of Discontent: the Liverpool gravedigger’s strike. The author immediately clarifies the popular claim that the Left-wing National Union of Public Employees (NUPE) led this strike when, in fact, it was the Right-leaning General and Municipal Workers’ Union (GMWU) that led this infamous strike. By following the local trajectory of GMWU convener, Ian Lowes, the reality of grassroots politics, low pay, and harsh working conditions challenge the dominant myth that these striking gravediggers were simply irrational and “bloody-minded.” Moreover, the chapter then focuses on the national leadership of the GMWU by charting the course of national GMWU researcher, Larry Whitty, to further reveal why the national leadership approved of their members taking such an action. On the heels of the road haulage strike, the chapter how the gravediggers’ strike further intensified the media furore surrounding the Winter of Discontent and later places this strike in the larger context of the struggle public sector workers faced in asserting themselves as an increasingly important force in trade union politics.

Keywords:   Liverpool gravediggers’ strike, National Union of Public Employees (NUPE), General and Municipal Workers’ Union (GMWU), Winter of Discontent, trade union politics, public sector unions

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