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1972: Miners call off crippling coal strike

Miners have voted overwhelmingly in favour of a pay settlement after a seven-week strike for increased wages.

The move follows a week-long ballot on a union leaders' decision to accept a pay package worth 95m, following recommendations by Lord Wilberforce's court of inquiry.

The strike has crippled the country's power supplies, seen 1.2 million workers laid off as a result of the imposition of a three-day week and a state of emergency declared on 9 February.

Terms of a peace deal

On 19 February at 0100 miners' leaders emerged from Downing Street after talks with the Prime Minister Edward Heath and Employment Secretary Robert Carr.

They had tried to get another 1 added to the 5 to 6 rise recommended by the Wilberforce report, but this was rejected.

Instead they were offered, and accepted, other benefits such as bonus payments that would increase overtime earnings.

Union chiefs also won two extra concessions from the Coal Board - giving the adult rate of pay now at 20 years of age to 19-year-olds next year and 18-year-olds in 1974 plus five extra days' holiday.

The annual rate of increase amounts to 21% - well over the government's wage restraint policy target of 7% to 8%.

Restrictions on industrial use of electricity will end at midnight.

Although all pickets have been called off, miners will not return to work until Monday 28 February. The Coal Board said it hoped to achieve 40% of normal output by the end of next week.

Joe Gormley, President of the National Union of Mineworkers, said some men would be encouraged back to work today to prepare the pits for next week "in the interests of the nation as a whole and particularly to assist those fellow trade unionists who so ably assisted us".

Earl Jellicoe, Lord Privy seal, is charged with co-ordinating the recovery programme.

In Context
The Heath Government caved into the miners' demands after the strikes threatened to strangle the country.

In November 1973 the NUM called for an overtime ban after rejecting the Coal Board's 13% pay rise.

Led this time by Arthur Scargill, they launched an all-out strike in February 1974.

Mr Heath called a general election - and lost to Harold Wilson's Labour Party.

Mr Wilson struck a deal with the unions, known as the Social Contract, promising food subsidies and stricter prices controls in return for pay restraint and co-operation.

When Mr Scargill attempted a similar success in 1984, Margaret Thatcher and her government were well prepared.

Coal was stockpiled and imported and a National Reporting Centre was set up to co-ordinate Britain's regional police force.

This allowed officers to be deployed quickly to trouble spots.

The pickets failed to stop or even restrict power supplies to the nation.

Miners finally returned to work in March 1985.

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