Three-Day Week
The Three-Day Week was one of several measures introduced in the United Kingdom
United Kingdom
The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern IrelandIn the United Kingdom and Dependencies, other languages have been officially recognised as legitimate autochthonous languages under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages...

 by the Conservative Government 1970–1974 to conserve electricity
Electricity is a general term encompassing a variety of phenomena resulting from the presence and flow of electric charge. These include many easily recognizable phenomena, such as lightning, static electricity, and the flow of electrical current in an electrical wire...

, the production of which was severely limited due to industrial action
Industrial action
Industrial action or job action refers collectively to any measure taken by trade unions or other organised labour meant to reduce productivity in a workplace. Quite often it is used and interpreted as a euphemism for strike, but the scope is much wider...

 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. Services deemed essential (e.g. hospitals,supermarkets and newspaper prints) were exempt. 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
In economics, inflation is a rise in the general level of prices of goods and services in an economy over a period of time.When the general price level rises, each unit of currency buys fewer goods and services. Consequently, inflation also reflects an erosion in the purchasing power of money – a...

. One of the government's strategies to tackle this was to cap pay rises. This caused unrest amongst trade union
Trade union
A trade union, trades union or labor union is an organization of workers that have banded together to achieve common goals such as better working conditions. The trade union, through its leadership, bargains with the employer on behalf of union members and negotiates labour contracts with...

s 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
Coal is a combustible black or brownish-black sedimentary rock usually occurring in rock strata in layers or veins called coal beds or coal seams. The harder forms, such as anthracite coal, can be regarded as metamorphic rock because of later exposure to elevated temperature and pressure...


By the middle of 1973, the National Union of Mineworkers had encouraged their members to work to rule
Work-to-rule is an industrial action in which employees do no more than the minimum required by the rules of their contract, and follow safety or other regulations to the letter in order to cause a slowdown rather than to serve their purpose. This is considered less disruptive than a strike or...

 – as a result, coal stocks slowly dwindled. The global effect of the 1973 oil crisis
1973 oil crisis
The 1973 oil crisis started in October 1973, when the members of Organization of Arab Petroleum Exporting Countries or the OAPEC proclaimed an oil embargo. This was "in response to the U.S. decision to re-supply the Israeli military" during the Yom Kippur war. It lasted until March 1974. With the...

 also drove up the price of coal. The Heath
Edward Heath
Sir Edward Richard George "Ted" Heath, KG, MBE, PC was a British Conservative politician who served as Prime Minister of the United Kingdom and as Leader of the Conservative Party ....

 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 February 1974 general election
United Kingdom general election, February 1974
The United Kingdom's general election of February 1974 was held on the 28th of that month. It was the first of two United Kingdom general elections held that year, and the first election since the Second World War not to produce an overall majority in the House of Commons for the winning party,...

 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
Liberal Party (UK)
The Liberal Party was one of the two major political parties of the United Kingdom during the 19th and early 20th centuries. It was a third party of negligible importance throughout the latter half of the 20th Century, before merging with the Social Democratic Party in 1988 to form the present day...

 and Ulster Unionist MPs
MPS may refer to:* Robinson List, aka Mail Preference Service, direct mail opt-out system* Malmin Palloseura, association football club from Helsinki, Finland.* Marginal propensity to save* Master Production Schedule...

, and Harold Wilson
Harold Wilson
James Harold Wilson, Baron Wilson of Rievaulx, KG, OBE, FRS, FSS, PC was a British Labour Member of Parliament, Leader of the Labour Party. He was twice Prime Minister of the United Kingdom during the 1960s and 1970s, winning four general elections, including a minority government after the...

 returned to power for his third term
Labour Government 1974-1979
-Formation:After the February 1974 general election, no party had a majority of seats. The incumbent Conservative party won the popular vote, but Labour took the most seats. Edward Heath, the Conservative prime minister, attempted to negotiate a coalition with the Liberal party, but resigned as...

. The normal working week was restored on 8 March, but other restrictions on the use of electricity remained in force. A second general election
United Kingdom general election, October 1974
The United Kingdom general election of October 1974 took place on 10 October 1974 to elect 635 members to the British House of Commons. It was the second general election of that year and resulted in the Labour Party led by Harold Wilson, winning by a tiny majority of 3 seats.The election of...

 was held in October 1974 and saw Labour gain a majority of three seats.

When the next general election was called in May 1979
United Kingdom general election, 1979
The United Kingdom general election of 1979 was held on 3 May 1979 to elect 635 members to the British House of Commons. The Conservative Party, led by Margaret Thatcher ousted the incumbent Labour government of James Callaghan with a parliamentary majority of 43 seats...

, Labour reminded voters of the Three-Day Week in the election campaign, with a poster showing a lit candle and bearing the slogan "Remember the last time the Tories said they had all the answers?" The tactic failed, however, to prevent a Tory election win which made party leader Margaret Thatcher
Margaret Thatcher
Margaret Hilda Thatcher, Baroness Thatcher, was Prime Minister of the United Kingdom from 1979 to 1990...

 prime minister. Her campaign benefited from the Winter of Discontent
Winter of Discontent
The "Winter of Discontent" is an expression, popularised by the British media, referring to the winter of 1978–79 in the United Kingdom, during which there were widespread strikes by local authority trade unions demanding larger pay rises for their members, because the Labour government of...

, in which a wave of strikes the previous winter had crippled the country.
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