Next year we will celebrate thirty years since the start of the 1984 miners’ strike. This was a decisive battle and followed those of the mid 1970s and the 1974 strike of forty years ago.
In preparation for this celebration the forum will provide some links and materials to set us thinking about the significance of those disputes. Here is the first contribution which is taken from the Welsh website Ymgyrchul.
Miners Strike 1972, 1974 and 1984
On 9 January 1972 the British miners went on strike for the first time since 1926. The strike lasted for seven weeks and 135 pits closed in South Wales. A state of emergency was declared and to economise on electricity Edward Heath’s government had to reduce the working week to three days. As a result of the strike, the miners’ wages were increased, becoming among the highest among the British working class.
N.U.M. leaflet, ‘The Miners’ Strike’. By 4 February 1974 the miners’ situation had deteriorated and a national miners’ strike was called again. This strike lasted four weeks. A state of emergency and a three-day working week were once again declared. The Prime Minister, Edward Heath, called a General Election hoping that the electorate would support the Government’s attempts to deal with the deteriorating industrial situation, but the Conservative Party was defeated. The new Labour government reached a deal with the miners shortly afterwards.
By 1984 the coal industry was in decline and the National Coal Board wished to close 20 pits, a situation that would have led to 20,000 men losing their jobs. The National Coal Board claimed that the contract made with the unions in 1974 was no longer valid because of the changes that had occurred in the British economy.
The Conservative Government, under Margaret Thatcher, was determined to diminish the power and influence of the Unions. The Unions themselves argued that the Government’s policies were having a damaging effect on the coal communities. Arthur Scargill, President of the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM), called on the miners to strike, and on 12 March a strike started which was to last for nearly a year. Miners from 28 South Wales pits played an influential role during the strike through their picketing, protesting and rallying in support of the miners.
The 1926 and 1984 Strikes
Many movements were set up in support of the miners, such as Women Against Pit Closures (WAPC). These women played an important role in the strike by raising money to help support the miners and their families.
Eventually the miners acknowledged defeat and returned to work on 5 March 1985 after calling the strike off two days earlier at a special NUM Conference. The coal industry continued to decline in south Wales with 12 pits closing within a year of the strike coming to an end.