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1985: Miners call off year-long strike
Miners' leaders have voted to end the longest-running industrial dispute in Britain without any peace deal over pit closures.

Miners' leader Arthur Scargill says the campaign against job losses will continue - but miners will return to work on Tuesday.

The final vote by the National Union of Mineworkers national executive was close; 98 to 91 for a return to work.

We face not an employer but a government aided and abetted by the judiciary, the police and you people in the media
Arthur Scargill, NUM
Miners braving the cold and rain outside the TUC's London headquarters, Congress House, for news of the vote were disappointed with the decision; some were in tears, others chanted: "We will not go back to work".

The NUM president, Mr Scargill told a news conference: "We have decided to go back for a whole range of reasons. One of the reasons is that the trade union movement of Britain with a few notable exceptions has left this union isolated.

"Another reason is that we face not an employer but a government aided and abetted by the judiciary, the police and you people in the media and at the end of this time our people are suffering tremendous hardship."

Cheers greeted Mr Scargill when he emerged from Congress House - but the mood quickly changed and he was booed and jeered as he announced the return to work.

The chief spokesman for the National Coal Board, Michael Eaton, said: "There is no victory. The coal industry has lost, it's the victim. We have lost markets, we have lost good labour relations over the course of this dispute."

He said there would be no amnesty for workers sacked during the dispute over violence on picket lines and damage to Coal Board property.

Major structural changes in the industry are still planned. The strike began in March 1984 over plans to cut production costs by closing up to 20 pits.

Miners have still not agreed a 1983 pay increase - and had been operating a ban on overtime. The NCB has made clear no back pay will be awarded until the ban is lifted.

The Treasury has estimated the strike has cost the country 1.5bn - the NUM puts the cost far higher. It includes extra money paid for running power stations on oil rather than coal, extra policing, as well as money lost by the steel industry and rail network.

The Prime Minister, Margaret Thatcher, said she was very relieved the strike was over, "I want a prosperous coal industry," she said "The miners would have been back earlier if the strike had not been kept going by intimidation and I am very glad now they can go back."

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Watch/Listen
NUM leader Arthur Scargill
Arthur Scargill's union members faced tremendous hardship

Margaret Thatcher welcomes miners' decision

Reaction from the pit where the strike began



In Context
On 6 March 1984, NCB chairman Ian McGregor announced plans to cut production, the equivalent of 20 pits or 20,000 jobs.

The flashpoint was at Cortonwood in south Yorkshire where miners were told the pit would close even though there was still workable coal.

Miners walked out and were soon joined by colleagues around the country. Flying pickets targeted mines still working normally, as well as steel and power plants.

However, large stockpiles of coal and the NUM's decision not to ballot its members, which led to the formation in Nottinghamshire of a breakaway union, the Union of Democratic Mineworkers, meant the strike did not have as big an impact as the 1972 action.

Talks continued on and off without success. The first breakthrough came when the NCB tempted men to return to work before Christmas with a big advertising campaign offering pay and bonuses - 19,000 went back - but two-thirds were still out.

Police say there were nearly 10,000 arrests during the dispute. On average, 3,000 extra officers were deployed each day.

The return to work accelerated as it became clear the miners had failed even to restrict power supplies when the Central Electricity Generating Board met its highest ever demand for power on 8 January 1985.

The miners felt they had no choice but to return to work.

Stories From 3 Mar


 
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