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1972: Miners strike against government

VIDEO : Welsh miners meet to discuss strike action

Coal miners walked out at midnight in their first national strike for almost 50 years.

Three months of negotiations with the National Coal Board ended in deadlock four days ago with an offer of 7.9% on the table and the promise of a backdated deal for an increase in productivity.

The 280,000 mineworkers signalled their determination to break the Government's unofficial eight per cent pay ceiling by refusing to put the offer to the vote.

They are looking for an increase of up to 9 a week - on an average take home wage of 25.

Miners have been observing an overtime ban since 1 November in support of their pay claim, which the NCB estimates has already cost the industry 20m.

Yesterday, the NCB announced it was withdrawing its pay offer as it became clear the miners were intent on striking.


"We are determined to win this battle, however long it may take"

South Wales miner

NCB Chairman, Derek Ezra, said: "If we had granted the 120m they had asked for and thus presumably satisfied the mineworkers, we would have landed ourselves in a very serious financial situation.

"The only way of recouping that money would then have been to put prices up and we would have had to put the price of coal up by at least another 15%."

Mr Ezra said the strike would mean up to 12m a week in lost revenue - and therefore calculations on which previous pay offers had been made were invalid.

The Trades Union Congress (TUC) is holding meetings at the weekend to discuss support for the strike among transport unions.

The General Secretary of the National Union of Mineworkers, Lawrence Daly, has predicted coal stocks will quickly run down.

"Industrialists in this country will be pressing the Government to get the door open for serious talks," he added.

Three-quarters of the electricity used in the United Kingdom comes from coal-burning power stations.

The strike comes at a time when the stations are facing long periods of peak demand during the cold weather.

All 289 pits across the country have been closed by the strike. Miners say they are prepared for a long fight.

A south Wales miner said: "We are going into this now, not thinking it's going to be over in a week or a fortnight. We are determined to win this battle however long it may take."

In Context
The miners' strike lasted seven weeks.

Within 48 hours of the strike beginning, 17 schools in Shropshire - dependent on coal-fired heating - were forced to close.

The TUC advised transport unions not to cross picket lines and once these were set up at ports, power stations and coal yards, the coal could not be moved.

The NUM's aim was to freeze domestic and industrial coal supplies to force the coal board back to the negotiating table.

By 5 February, factories were beginning to lay off workers because of power shortages. Four days later, BBC local radio stations were warning of domestic power cuts.

A state of emergency was declared on 9 February.

Employment Secretary, Robert Carr, set up a committee of inquiry on 11 February under Lord Wilberforce - after the latest round of talks between the NCB and the union broke down.

A headline in the Times on 16 February said 1.2m workers had been laid off as a result of the strike.

At 0100 on 19 February, miners' leaders agreed a 95m pay package. During the talks at Number 10, the union claims to have wrung about 15 extra pay concessions from the Coal Board - over and above the Wilberforce inquiry recommendations.

Miners voted to return to work on 25 February.


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