Miners strike ‘could have been very different’ if protests held today

Miners Strike: Police clash with protesters in 1972

We use your sign-up to provide content in ways you’ve consented to and to improve our understanding of you. This may include adverts from us and 3rd parties based on our understanding. You can unsubscribe at any time. More info

In the early Seventies, the miners went on strike for the first time in Britain since 1926. In a bid to get better wages, they walked out for weeks on end. Power stations were picketed to limit coal supplies, causing widespread blackouts — even Downing Street was operating by candlelight. January 9, 1972, saw the Government declare a state of emergency, and the three-day working week was introduced to save electricity. However, the havoc caused by the strikes did not remain effective in the Eighties after Margaret Thatcher took to power and they were eventually worn down. But Siân James, who was at that time a miner’s wife, said that had the industry been standing with others as seen today, history might look somewhat different.

Last year was littered with strikes. In August and September alone, some 560,000 working days were lost. A whole host of industries took to the picket lines: rail workers, royal mail, nurses, teachers, and civil servants. The largest NHS action in history also took place.

Although we are now well into a new year, the strikes are far from abating. February alone will see the likes of ambulance staff, university staff, and physiotherapists join the tens of thousands walking out in a bid to obtain better pay and conditions.

The scale of industrial action — some 1.7 million workers have balloted or voted for stoppages — has not been seen since the miners’ strike of the Eighties.

Some 50 years ago, in 1972, the first miners’ strikes brought the country to a standstill. At first, the industrial action resulted in success with miners becoming the highest-paid among the working class that year. But by 1973, miners’ salaries had fallen once again to 18th in the industrial wages league with the situation only worsening as time went on.

The strikes in the Eighties did not have the same leverage as those of the previous decade. Back then, the National Union of Mineworkers’ (NUM) Arthur Scargill had initiated the strikes in a bid to prevent collieries from closing.

But by the end of the Seventies, Mrs Thatcher had come to power and saw to it that the miners would not come out triumphant once again. Thatcher had stockpiled coal and coke supplies around the country and saw to it that the non-unionised haulage firms would cross the picket lines to carry coal to power stations and factories.

A stalemate ensued from 1984 to 1985, forcing miners into dire circumstances as Mrs Thatcher’s government sequestered the NUM’s funds. Instead, independent groups twined with mining communities across the country to rally the support needed.

Ms James, then a miner’s wife based in Swansea Valley, joined the support networks helping families get through the strike.

The 63-year-old, who later became a Labour MP, said that in a way she is “jealous” of the strikes today as she believes the miners could have benefited from the camaraderie of other industries striking, too.

She told the BBC from her home in Neath last month: “We were a union that was standing alone.

“I’m jealous in a way because if we’d had during the miners’ strike several industries standing together, taking it in turns to share the responsibility and the action, I think the outcome could have been very different.”

Ms James was played by Jessica Gunning in the 2014 film Pride, starring Bill Nighy and Dominic West. The Bafta Award-winning film depicts the story of the London activist group called Lesbians and Gays Support the Miners and how they fundraised for the small village of Onllwyn in Neath Port Talbot.

Princess Margaret’s sweet reason for breaking tradition after death [INSIGHT]
Zelensky fights back tears as he makes impassioned plea to EU leaders [REPORT]
Expats claim life is ‘difficult’ and ‘complicated’ in Germany [ANALYSIS]

Being involved in the strike had a profound impact on Ms James. She added: “It changed my life.

“I wouldn’t be where I was at Westminster, and where I am today as a character if it hadn’t been for the strike. I can honestly say that my war was a good war.”

The miners were not alone in striking during the Eighties, however. Towards the end of the decade, rail, tube, and local government workers went on strike. As a result, 2.42 million working days were lost in the month of July 1989 alone.

But by this time, the minors’ “war” had already been lost. On March 3, 1985, the miners’ strike was officially brought to an end. The pit closures of the country’s 174 mines then began with there being only 15 deep coal mines by 1994, the year the industry was privatised.

Source: Read Full Article