Junior doctors risk losing public support if they demand too much

The trade union movement has never recovered from its moral defeat in the winter of discontent in 1978. Junior doctors ought to remember their history, or they risk losing public support.

James Callaghan’s government lost control of its pay policy because trade unions broke ranks with each other. The ones that were best placed to cause disruption (“bring the country to its knees” was the tabloid headline translation) demanded more money than those with less industrial muscle.

When relatively well-paid car workers at Ford secured a 17 per cent increase, breaking the government’s 5 per cent guideline, it seemed to usher in a free-for-all that had little to do with the labour movement’s rhetoric of equality and solidarity.


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