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Pickets, Police and Politics: The Miners' Strike 1984-1985

The coal industry underwent great changes following nationalisation in 1947. Considerable investment was ploughed into the industry by the government allowing new equipment and mining techniques to be introduced. Until the mid 1950s, levels of employment and production remained steady but, with the decline in the demand for coal and the challenge from Middle East oil, 50 collieries were closed in south Wales between 1957 and 1964.

During the 1970s, the industry was hit by two major strikes. In 1972 Conservative Prime Minister Edward Heath caved in when the miners went on strike for more pay. When another miners' strike began in 1974, Mr Heath called a snap general election hoping to rally public support against the miners. But the public vote went against him resulting in victory for the Labour Party.

By the 1980s the British coal industry was one of the safest and most efficient in the world. However, the new Conservative government under Margaret Thatcher wanted to make industry more efficient by slimming down what they regarded as unprofitable industries. Under her leadership, many former state run industries like gas, water and the railways were transferred to private sector ownership i.e. they were privatised. British Telecom was the first service provider to be 'de-nationalised' in 1984, followed by many others in subsequent years. At the same time she wanted to weaken the power of the trade union movement which she believed had become too powerful. This agenda put the Conservative government on a collision course with the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM). Incidentally, the NCB became British Coal in 1987, in readiness for privatisation which occurred in 1994.

Comments(4)

Ceri Thompson Amgueddfa Cymru – National Museum Wales Staff
26 January 2021, 11:42
Dear Gemma Harris,

Thanks for your query, I'll contact you via Email if that's ok.

Best wishes

Ceri Thompson, Curator Big Pit: National Coal Museum.
Gemma Harris
25 January 2021, 16:27
Hello. This is a wonderful archive.
I am currently undertaking a PhD on the Women's Involvement in the Miner's Strike particularly in the South Wales valleys in 1984 at the University of South Wales in Treforest.
I have just received my ethics approval to undertake interviews with those who were there. Obviously, in the current climate, it's impossible to conduct these face to face.
I am just wondering if you know of anyone who was involved in the support groups in the South Wales valleys who would be willing to fill a questionnaire for me and possibly undertake an interview via telephone or facetime (Facebook messenger can be used as well)
All data will be anonymous and destroyed once used in the research. If anyone would be willing to help that would be fantastic.
I feel that women's story needs to be told and as the daughter of an Oakdale miner who lived through the strike this is more than just an academic project for me.
Ceri Thompson Amgueddfa Cymru – National Museum Wales Staff
10 November 2020, 16:48
Dear Billie Human,

Thanks for your comments, it's good to remember that closures weren't only confined to the coal industry. Interesting to read about your background especially has Big Pit has had close links with Camborne School of Mines, including having some of their students working as placements with us.

It might interest you to know that I spent a year picketing with Cwm Colliery NUM and my wife is nursing, so we have a bit in common.

I'm not sure what the situation was in the opencast mines during the strike as the workers weren't in the NUM; I believe that they were in the Transport and General Union and refused to move coal during that year, but will try and do a bit more research into the subject.

If you have any more queries, or just fancy a discussion, you can contact me at ceri.thompson@museumwales.ac.uk

Best wishes

Ceri Thompson, Curator, Big Pit: National Coal Museum
BillieHuman
6 November 2020, 08:06
I have a question which 36 years after the wrecking of communities will be painful to EVERYONE. Before I ask it I'll tell you a bit about myself.
Im a worker, i actually love working, my vocation is nursing, I just don't have it in me to stand by and do nothing and watch people being abused, bullied, conned.

I grew up in the Far South West of Cornwall Tin Mining country. At the time of the Coal mining strikes (1980s) they were also closing the Cornish Tin Mines. Proper mines, dangerous hard dirty work but respectful to enviroment and industries which communities were built around. Not open cast like North Cornwall.

I remember my dad, a vicar, holding the banner when the Cornish miners marched in London. Prehaps it was my dads ethics and morals and to a certian extent politics (although he had a strike rule NEVER to mix politics and the pulpit) that have made me the person I am.

Unions are EXTREMELY important, unfortunate too many people don't understand the history or the principles of unions or how they work.

Im 4 yrs homeless 2yrs rough sleeping I'm forced to watch communities ripped apart by scab types.

My question how many scabs worked open cast mines?

Please contact me OUR COMMUNITIES NEED JUSTICE!!!

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