- Inflation hit double figures for the first time
- Wage rises were limited by ministerial order to £2.25
- We worked 24% longer hours than we did in 2011
- Motorway speed limits were cut to 50mph
- The Trafalgar Square Christmas tree lights had to be turned off
- A pint of beer was 13p
- Petrol ration books were issued by the British government to combat petrol shortages during the 1973 Oil Crisis.
The Organisation of Petroleum Producing Countries (OPEC) imposed an oil embargo on Western countries which had supported Israel during the Arab-Israeli Yom Kippur war (which began in October 1973). Oil prices quadrupled, and supplies were restricted, leading to the imposition of petrol rationing in Britain. I had a ration book but they were never used.
The Sun newspaper, writing during the recession in 2010, printed a piece about the 1973 Winter of discontent. Concerned about hardship during the festive season, Tory Prime Minister Ted Heath warned us to should expect a difficult festive season. In an emergency national broadcast on December 13 he said: “We shall have a harder Christmas than we have known since the war.”
And then we had the 3-day week! 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 were 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 newspapers) were exempt. Television companies were required to cease broadcasting at 10.30pm during the crisis to conserve electricity.
This was a miserable time as it was Winter. I remember feeding our 1-tyear old baby by candlelight in the kitchen and buying a gas heater to keep warm.
And what about pay for managers?
In 1973, the median yearly pay packet for a Chief executive was £10,600. Based on the fact that £1.00 then is worth £15.70 today, that’s the equivalent of a salary of £166,000.
A middle manager earned £3,855, which would be equivalent to £60,500 today. I earned about £2,000 in my professional job, worth about £31,000 today, with a £3,000 mortgage.
The CMI’s latest survey shows that the basic salary for today’s Chief Exec is £215,879 – much better than the average. For middle managers the survey results show the actual median salary of £43,456, which means modern day managers are faring worse than expected and the pay gap between the top layers of management and those further down has worsened over the decades.