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The changing pattern of UK strikes, 1964-2014

Dave Lyddon (Keele Management School, Keele University, Newcastle-under-Lyme, United Kingdom)

Employee Relations

ISSN: 0142-5455

Article publication date: 5 October 2015




The purpose of this paper is to provide an overview of the changing strike activity in the UK over the last 50 years.


The paper draws on a wide literature on UK strikes and an extensive trawl of newspaper sources. It is divided into four main sections. The first two summarise, in turn, the changing amount and locus of strike activity between 1964 and 2014. The third discusses the changing relationship and balance between official and unofficial strikes. The last covers the role of the courts and legislation on strikes, highlighting some key moments in this turbulent history.


The period 1964-2014 can be divided into three sub-periods: high-strike activity until 1979; a transition period of “coercive pacification” in the 1980s; and unprecedentedly low-strike activity since the early 1990s. Unions were more combative against the legislative changes of the 1980s than they are normally given credit for.

Research limitations/implications

Given its broad scope, this paper cannot claim to be comprehensive.


This is a rare study of the changing nature of UK strikes over such a long time period.



Lyddon, D. (2015), "The changing pattern of UK strikes, 1964-2014", Employee Relations, Vol. 37 No. 6, pp. 733-745.



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Copyright © 2015, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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