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Miners Strikes 1974-84

In the 1970’s Coal Miners were seeking a rise in pay for the dangerous jobs they carried out in the coal mining industry. The National Union of Mine workers (NUM) proposed a 43% pay rise.  Negotiations between the government and the unions failed to reach an agreement and in January 1972 the unions called for a strike. At the end of February the NUM and the Government reached an agreement and the strike came to an end.  However further strike action took place in January 1974 this lead to a shortage of coal for coal fired power stations resulting in nation wide electricity power cuts.  This resulted in bring about a three day week where the use of electricity was restricted.

 

The Tory government lead by Edward Heath had adopted a hard line with the unions and strike action. A General Election took place in February 1974 when the three day working week was seen as a major problem for all parties. This election resulted in a Labour minority government lead by Harold Wilson who agreed to a 35% pay rise for the miners. This brought about the end of the strike and the three day working week in March 1974. The miners achieved a further pay rise in February 1975.

 

In the years leading up the the 1980’s the mining industry saw pit closures and a decline in coal production leading to large job losses. The National Coal Board wanted to close around 20 colliery's. The NUM elected a new leader in 1981 by the name of Arthur Scargill from Yorkshire. He was against any further pit closures and was eager to take on the Government as well as the National Coal Board over pit closures.

 

Arthur Scargill called for strike action over pit closures. The NUM members were asked to vote for strike action on three occasions and the result was no to strike action. When the National Coal Board announced further pit closures in March 1984 it lead to miners at Cortonwood colliery Yorkshire walking out. This lead to the Yorkshire members of the NUM sanctioning a strike based on a ballet result from 1981, this was later challenged in court.

 

Many mining areas were not in favour of strike action however the NUM lead by Arthur Scargill pushed ahead with strike action without a national ballot of its members. This lead to major confrontation between the NUM lead by Arthur Scargil, The National Coal Board lead by Ian McGregor and Prime minister Margaret Thatcher.

During the year long strike Miners picketed other mines and industrial sites such as power stations, steel works and others that used Coal. This lead to confrontation between the pickets and Police. Anyone attempting to cross the picket line was branded a “scab” this caused divisions in local community’s. The miners and their family’s had to endure a year of hardship with no pay. However local communities supported the striking miners by setting up soup kitchens, food parcels and appeals for the miners families.  

 The strike was ruled illegal in September 1984, as no national ballot of NUM members had been held It ended on 3 March 1985. The miners although defeated returned to work walking behind colliery bands and lodge banners. 

 

The NCB agreed to postpone closure of five pits: Bullcliffe Wood, Cortonwood, Herrington, Polmais and Snowdown. However in the decades that followed the NCB continued with pit closures. The last deep mine in Wales Aberpergwm, Glyn Neath closed in 1985 and the last in the UK Kellingly, Yorkshire closed in 2015.

Watch our video of a retired coal miners memories of the Miners strike in 1984

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