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Thatchers Britain: 1984 Miners Strike

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The Miners Strike 1984

One cornerstone of the Thatcher government was for far reaching Trade Union reforms, the battle lines where being drawn between the free market economic model and the workforce protection of the Trade Union movement. The free marketeers pointed to the 1970s as a decade of strikes and discontent, the 3 day week, a car industry was more on strike than not. By the 1980s the world was changing, Globalisation was already making inroads from the far east, Made in England and Made in Germany stickers on goods was disappearing from the shelves. British Manufacturing was in the crosshairs of the rest of the world.

“The most bitter industrial dispute in British history”

In 1984-85 The Miners Strike was an industrial action on a scale yet seen, it lasted for more than a year and was an attempt to shut down the British Coal industry prevent the colliery closures. Arthur Scargill of the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) was leading the strike against the National Coal Board, Government agency.

The Miners Strike was the longest industrial strike action in history, it lasted from 1984 to 1985. Thatcher developed the government policy of defeating the industrial action.

3 key Thatcher policies to end the Miners Strike of 1984-85

  1. Build up ample coal stocks,
  2. Keep as many miners at work as possible
  3. Use the police to break up attacks by pickets on working miners.

Crucially, and probably the biggest factor of ending the miner’s strike was the technical issue that the NUM trade union had not held a national ballot in calling for the strike. This presented the NUM with a challenge, as some other trade unions did not back the strike.

The critical element was the NUM’s failure to hold a national strike ballot

The High Court ruled the Miners Strike illegal in September 1984 as they had held no National Ballot, Strike ended 6 months later 3rd March 1985

Arthur Scargill and the National Union of Miners (NUM)

Arthur Scargill ran NUM National Union of Miners at war with the National Coal Board NCB run by the Government. Thatcher wanted less disruption of the trade unions and wanted them to have less power and control. Coal mines were at risk of being shut down. The year-long strike was one of the biggest in history and harshest industrial disputes to date.

Active picket lines, heavy police intervention. Thatcher’s government planned to keep as many miners working as possible and build up stocks and involve the police for those who work who were being subjected to backlash picketing. In the aftermath of the Miners Strike, they saw it as a victory for the Thatcher Government, but with the closure of virtually every Coal Mine the impact on communities and miners was never less devasting. The economic model of coal mining on the British mainland was all but over.

4 facts of Britains Mining Industry

  1. 1 million worked in mining in the 1920s, 2000 worked in mining in 2015
  2. In 1983 there were 174 working pits, producing around 128 million tonnes of coal a year
  3. Britains last deep mine closed in 2015, Kellingley Colliery
  4. Coal-fired Power fire stations in the UK will cease to exist by 2025

They made a film out of the Miners Strike

The 2014 film PRIDE takes place in the summer of 1984 and based on a true story of Gay activists in London who went to support the Welsh Miners during this time. It an upbeat empowering movie with another viewpoint of that era in time, based on some real characters who changed a part of history. Giving insight into two movements that may not have met had it not been for these extraordinary circumstances. Starring Bill Nighy, Imelda Staunton, Dominic West, Written by Stephen Beresford, Directed by Matthew Warchus

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