This film is part of Free

The Halifax Laundry Blues

Women workers give voice to their puzzlement, anger and despair as years of hard work cleaning laundry for hospitals is discarded.

Documentary 1985 25 mins

From the collection of:

Logo for Yorkshire Film Archive


This documentary on the lives of laundry workers under threat provides a rare opportunity to hear from those at the sharp end of Mrs Thatcher’s policy of "reversing the corrosive and corrupting effects of socialism." With privatisation well under way, women working in the laundry that had been supplying Halifax hospitals for over 100 years find their livelihoods on the line as services go out to tender to private contractors.

Mrs Thatcher and her close associates, most notably Keith Joseph, came to power in 1979 with the intent to privatise as much of the public sector as possible. During her reign this amounted to more than 50 companies, beginning with BP in October 1979. The 1983 Griffiths Report on the NHS, which focused on management structure, recommended contracting out areas to the private sector. Yet the NHS was left relatively non-privatised by Mrs Thatcher – although private companies have always supplied the NHS. But the skirmish over hospital laundry services was a forerunner for subsequent moves towards privatisation, expanding into clinical services. Note that the narrator, director and producer are all women.