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1982: Welsh miners back health workers

The South Wales coalfield has come to a standstill after about 24,000 miners went on strike in support of health service workers, who are demanding a 12% pay rise.

The miners downed tools because they regard the health workers as allies in their battle against Conservative policies which they believe are hostile to both their interests.

Meanwhile, organisers said more than 15,000 people marched through the streets of Cardiff, in the biggest demonstration of support for the workers seen so far.

Some of the striking miners joined health workers on picket lines outside Welsh hospitals, which were reduced to emergency cover only.

In Cardiff hospital pickets were backed up by members of the National Union of Seamen.

Other unions also declared their support for the health service workers' pay claim. Demonstrators were joined by building workers, local authority workers, civil servants and delegates from the gas, electricity and water industries.

The leader of the NUM in south Wales, Emlyn Williams, addressed the main rally in Cardiff, expressing miners' solidarity with health workers.

Mr Williams urged them to take lessons from the miners' victory against the government's attempted pit closure programme last year.

And he condemned health service executives who were "prepared to be emissaries of a government that is dedicated to destroying the service".

Suggestions that the campaign has been politically motivated and aimed at bringing down the government were denied, although some said defeating the government would be no bad thing.

In Context
According to some reports the miners' action cost the industry 750,000 in lost revenue.

On 22 June, on the eve of a fourth national health service strike, the nurses' union, the Royal College of Nursing, accepted a 7.5% pay offer.

Other health workers were offered 6% increases.

Health service unions criticised the settlement and accused Secretary of State for Social Services Norman Fowler of attempting to divide one group of health workers from another by negotiating with them separately.


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