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1984 - Miners' strike

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1984 / 85 Miners' Strike

The 1984/85 miners' strike lasted a year and was one of the longest and potentially most damaging industrial disputes ever seen in Britain.

On 5 March 1984 some local strikes began at Cortonwood Colliery and other Yorkshire collieries over pit closures that had been announced by the Conservative Government. On 12 March, Arthur Scargill, President of the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM), called a national strike. There was some controversy over the legality of the strike as a national ballot was not held. In some areas of the country such as Nottinghamshire miners did not join the strike.

Support for the miners brought together disparate radical groups across Britain, involving more people in a greater intensity of activity over a lengthier period than any other campaign in the history of the labour movement. There were several violent incidents during the strike the worst being a clash between striking miners and the police at Orgreave, Rotherham on 29 June 1984. Police charged crowds on horseback with their batons and several people were seriously injured.

The strike lasted about a year and miners and their families suffered great hardship during this time, many relying on food parcels, soup kitchens and other donations. On 3 March 1985 NUM delegates voted to abandon the strike at a specially convened conference. Two days later the miners returned to work. After the strike the pit closure programme of the conservative Government continued rapidly. In 1984 there were 170 coal mines open in the UK, by 2004 only about 11 mines were still open. The strike was a terrible defeat for the miners and following the strike the coal industry and British trade union movement were never the same again.

Listen here to an ex-miner talking about the effect the miners' strike had on him.

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