The Workers Strike

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The miners’ strike of 1984-1985 was one the most acrimonious industrial disputes Britain has ever seen. On March 6th the National Coal Board (NCB) announced its intention to close 20 coal pits resulting in the loss of 20,000 jobs, revealing as well the plan to in the long-term close over 70 pits. A yearlong strike followed which saw a time of Mass walk-outs, poverty and violence as mining communities all over the country fought to maintain their employment. Ultimately the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) was defeated and the Strike ended on 3rd March 1985 following a NUM vote to return to work. Therefore in this essay I will analyse the strategic plans of both the British Government and the NUM, ultimately providing a judgement as to why the NUM and the miners’ strike failed to achieve its desired goal.
There were a number of strategic errors that damaged the development of a national strike amongst miners. A significant factor that hindered the NUM strategy throughout the strike was the absence of a national ballot. Huw Beynon highlights how this was certainly one of the sticks uses and used persistently by the members of the Tory government to attack the NUM . The NUM had gone against article 43 of their constitution and called a national strike by all militants without a national ballot. In hindsight this was irrational, as it provided the government with a propaganda weapon. Furthermore it is suggested that the actions of Scargill and the NUM would have been initially backed if a national ballot had been called, nevertheless consulting the membership was not part of Scargill’s plan: they were leaders and they were going to lead . Ultimately they led the miners to unnecessary hardship and disaster in a strike that went on...

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... lack of a national vote tarnished their agenda throughout resulting in internal conflict. However they were consistently confronted with the dominance of the Government, Thatcher had at her disposal the police force whose power during the crisis resembled that of an army; furthermore the media became a government tool for the manipulation and disrepute of the NUM allowing public opinion to be shaped in favour of the government. It was a defining moment in British industrial relations, and the strikes defeat significantly weakened the British trade union movement. It was also seen as a major political victory for Margaret Thatcher and the conservative party, as the miners were defeated allowing Thatcher’s government to consolidate its fiscally conservative programme. Consequently the political power of the NUM and of most British trade unions was severely reduced.
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