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Last updated:18 June 2015

General Strike

The General Strike was the most significant British labour dispute of the twentieth century. It was a huge solidarity action in support of the miners' union.

The mines had been taken under government control during the First World War but were handed back to private ownership once the War ended. The miners were locked out and forced back to work after three months on strike protesting against wage cuts.

In June 1925 the mine owners announced that they were going again to cut wages, and also to increase hours. The Trades Union Congress (TUC) offered its support to the miners' union the Miners' Federation of Great Britain, including strike action. Faced with a simultaneous mining and transport strike which it felt it could not defeat at this point, the Tory government offered a subsidy to the mining industry to maintain wages for a further nine months. It used the time gained to make extensive preparations.

Negotiations between the miners and mine owners failed and the General Strike began on 3 May 1926. Millions obeyed the strike call, bringing transport systems to a halt while newspapers were not printed. The government responding by using volunteers to run trains and buses and sent in troops to move supplies from the London docks. There were clashes between police and crowds in many areas and at least 4000 strikers were arrested. There were attacks on buses and trains, including the derailing of the Flying Scotsman. The strike was called off unilaterally by the TUC on 12 May with no guarantees of fair treatment for the miners - who fought on to bitter defeat in October. The following year the government passed an act outlawing sympathy strikes.

For more about the General Strike, including a list of resources you can come and read in the Library, click here.

Education resources available

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