Three-Day Week

Three-Day Week

The Three-Day Week was one of several measures introduced in the United Kingdom by the Conservative Government 1970-1974 to conserve electricity, the production of which was severely limited due to industrial action by coal miners. The effect was that from 1 January until 7 March 1974 commercial users of electricity would be limited to three specified consecutive days' consumption each week and prohibited from working longer hours on those days. Essential services (e.g. restaurants, food shops and newspapers) were exempt.cite web
title=British Economics and Trade Union politics 1973-1974
publisher=The National Archives (UK Government records)
] . Also exempt were means of mass communication such as television which would have entertained the population. However television companies were required to cease broadcasting at 10.30pm during the crisis to conserve electricity.


Throughout the early 1970s, particularly in 1972 and 1973, the British economy was troubled by high rates of inflation. One of the government's strategies to tackle this was to cap pay rises. This caused unrest amongst trade unions in that wages were struggling to keep pace with prices. This extended to most industries, most notably an industry where there was a powerful union - coal mining.

By the middle of 1973, the National Union of Mineworkers had encouraged their members to work to rule - as a result, coal stocks slowly dwindled. The global effect of the 1973 oil crisis also drove up the price of coal. The Heath government entered into negotiations with the NUM, to no avail. To reduce electricity consumption, and thus conserve coal stocks, a series of measures were announced on 13 December 1973 by Heath, including the "Three-Day Work Order", more commonly known as the "Three-Day Week", which was to come into force at midnight on 31 December. Commercial consumption of electricity would be limited to three consecutive days each week. Heath's objective was business continuity and survival. Rather than risk a total shutdown, working time was reduced with the intent of prolonging the life of available fuel stocks.

In the general election held in February the Conservative campaign emphasised the dispute with the miners and used the slogan "who governs Britain?". The election resulted in the Conservatives losing seats and Labour becoming the largest party in the Commons, but without an overall majority. Heath failed to secure sufficient parliamentary support from the Liberal and Ulster Unionist MPs, and Harold Wilson returned to power for his second term.

The normal working week was restored on 8 March, but other restrictions on the use of electricity remained in force.. A second general election was held in October. This gave Labour an overall majority that was too small to survive the loss of seats in by-elections and eventually led to a Lib-Lab pact.

Television Portrayal

In a 1974 episode of the popular British TV comedy series Till Death Us Do Part, the protagonist Alf Garnett was infuriated on returning home from work to find no dinner on the table, only to be told by his housewife, Else, that she had declared a Three Day Week of her own.

ee also

*Winter of discontent - the period of industrial action and economic problems in the UK in 1978 - 79


Wikimedia Foundation. 2010.

Look at other dictionaries:

  • three-day week — (January–February 1974)    As a result of industrial action by the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) in pursuit of wage demands, coal supplies were dwindling in late 1973. The Heath Government was unable to reach agreement with NUM leaders and… …   Glossary of UK Government and Politics

  • Four-day week — A four day week is an arrangement where a workplace or school has its employees or students work or attend school over the course of four days rather than the more customary five. While this has been a part of flexible working hours, in mid 2008… …   Wikipedia

  • Rolex Kentucky Three Day — The Rolex Kentucky Three Day is an eventing competition held at the Kentucky Horse Park in Lexington, Kentucky. The Rolex Kentucky is a CCI**** eventing competition, and the only four star show in the US. Four stars is the highest level of… …   Wikipedia

  • Manifesto of three-day corvee — The manifesto of three day corvee. The Manifesto of three day corvee or An Imperial Edict Forbidding Sunday Labor by Serfs (Russian: Манифест о трёхдневной барщине от 5 апреля 1797 года) was issued by the Russian emperor Paul I on April 5th, 1797 …   Wikipedia

  • week — day, month, week, year are singular in expressions such as a three day week and a two month term …   Modern English usage

  • day — day, month, week, year are singular in expressions such as a three day week and a two month term …   Modern English usage

  • Week — For more details on each day of the week, see Weekday names. For the TV station in the Peoria Bloomington, Illinois market, see WEEK TV. Weeks redirects here. For other uses, see Weeks (disambiguation). A week is a time unit equal to seven days.… …   Wikipedia

  • week — [[t]wi͟ːk[/t]] ♦ weeks 1) N COUNT A week is a period of seven days. Some people consider that a week starts on Monday and ends on Sunday. I had a letter from my mother last week... This has been on my mind all week... I know a wonderful… …   English dictionary

  • week — O.E. wice, from P.Gmc. *wikon (Cf. O.N. vika, O.Fris. wike, M.Du. weke, O.H.G. wecha, Ger. woche), probably originally with the sense of a turning or succession (Cf. Goth. wikon in the course of, O.N. vika sea mile, originally change of oar …   Etymology dictionary

  • Three Days of De Panne — Race details Date Late March/Early April Region De Panne, West Flanders English name Three Days of De Panne Local name(s) Driedaagse van De Panne Koksijde (Dutch) …   Wikipedia