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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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‘Celia's Gate’ and the Strikes in the NHS

‘Celia's Gate’ and the Strikes in the NHS

(p.153) 7 ‘Celia's Gate’ and the Strikes in the NHS
The Winter of Discontent

Tara Martin López

Liverpool University Press

The chapter examines the crucial strikes in the National Health Service (NHS) during the Winter of Discontent and contextualizes them within historic currents in the health service since its foundation. The chapter describes how acute staff shortages, combined with the Government’s need for cheap labour created low-paid, working-class vocations within the NHS and how three major groups were recruited: men left redundant from de-industrialization; white working- class women who were primary and/or essential breadwinners, and overseas workers, particularly from the West Indies, restricted to such work partly by racism. The chapter details how the National Union of Public Employees (NUPE) harnessed workers’ dissatisfaction with low pay and the political energy of a new generation of local male and female activists like Celia Newman, Lorraine Donovan, and Robert Gregory during the disputes of 1978-1979. The chapter ends with the Prime Minister James Callaghan’s dramatic defeat in March 1979 with the Conservative Party’s call for a vote of no confidence in the Labour Government and the commencement of the General Election of 1979.

Keywords:   Winter of Discontent, National Health Services (NHS), de-industrialization, working-class women, West Indian women, racism, National Union of Public Employees (NUPE), James Callaghan, vote of no confidence, General Election of 1979

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