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1984: Pit dispute 'illegal' says judge

The miners' strike is unlawful because a union ballot was never held, a high court judge has ruled.

Two separate groups of mineworkers from Yorkshire and Derbyshire went to court in an attempt to have the dispute declared illegal.

National Union of Mineworkers president Arthur Scargill called the strike six months ago when the Conservative government announced the closure of 20 uneconomic pits and the loss of 20,000 jobs.

Mr Justice Nicholls stopped short of ordering the NUM to ballot its membership, but the men who brought the case say they will return to work on Monday.

He told the court the union in Derbyshire had "ridden roughshod" over the rights of its members and miners could not be disciplined for crossing illegal picket lines.

"It is as plain as a pikestaff that without a national ballot the strike in Derbyshire is unlawful and contravenes union rules," he said.

"We've won almost everything we've asked for"

Miner Bob Taylor

NUM officials in Yorkshire should stop discouraging their members from working, the judge added.

Bob Taylor from Manton Colliery near Worksop told reporters he was very pleased with the verdict.

"We've won almost everything we've asked for - the strike had been deemed unofficial and illegal in Yorkshire and I just hope now the men return to work," he said.

Roland Taylor, one of the Derbyshire miners who brought the action, said the ruling could have implications for the rest of the country.

But Mr Scargill dismissed the court's findings as irrelevant, describing them as "another attempt by an unelected judge to interfere in the union's affairs."

In Context
NUM leader Arthur Scargill did not initially ask union members to vote on a strike because he feared many would not support him.

Most of the counties which did hold a ballot decided against action.

In these regions Mr Scargill was forced to use "flying pickets" to prevent the movement of coal and intimidate the working miners and their families.

The miners began to go back to work in large numbers in February 1985 and a delegate conference of the NUM narrowly voted to abandon the strike in May.

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