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The Decline Of The Industry Continued
After Nationalisation 1947


1985 Pages   1     2     3     4     5     6     7     8     9     10     11  

1985 - Page 1

Sherwood MP And Director Made Early Underground Visit At Ollerton

On 2nd January 1985 Andy Stewart MP (Cons) for Sherwood made an early (5.30am) underground visit to Ollerton Parkgate 33s panel accompanied by Jack E Wood (4395) Director North Nottinghamshire and Jim Stewart (10115), Assistant Manager. They spoke to the men on the district. Week 43 of the strike and now 160 pits out of the total of 174 in the country were now open as the drift back to work gathered momentum.

The men on strike wanted the Nottinghamshire Area to be kicked out of the NUM, but a conference called to decide the county’s fate was put off when it became clear that that so few Nottinghamshire miners would join a reformed NUM section.  Instead the NUM drew up rules to give the national union more power to call industrial action. Nottinghamshire delegates refused to accept the new rules (and on 5th July withdrew from the rules revision conference held in Sheffield).

Henry RichardsoNorth Nottinghamshire NUM Secretary was suspended from his post by the Area Council in Jan 1985.

On 4th February 1985 only 11 pits now out on strike. 79 pits were now producing coal.

More Men Return To Work

During February 1985 many more miners in the rest of the country were returning to work, being very disillusioned by the strike. Some had lost up to £8,000 in wages. Scargill tried to rally them to stay out, but they had had enough. 

On 28th February 1985 he attended a rally in North Nottinghamshire where he was warmly greeted by loyal members of the NUM. There were over 95% attendances in North Nottinghamshire, South Derbyshire and Leicestershire mines now.
Nottinghamshire miners NUM committee called off the overtime ban on 25th February 1985, but the NACODS union refused to follow suit and would only supervise safety work.

A series of stickers (as shown) were produced by the NUM to try to make the public aware of the problem, I think all to no avail due to the various bad incidents that happened during that year.

In the first week in March 1985 (on the 3rd) under pressure from all sides the NUM voted to end the strike without securing an agreement on the pit closure issue, and the dispute came to an end after twelve months, which had been preceded by 19 weeks of overtime ban. The dispute had cost them all a lot of money – never to be retrieved.

The NUM failed to secure any pledge over the future of pit closures after all and many millions of tonnes of coal had been lost – for what?  Some underground districts and panels were abandoned because of poor conditions such as heavy weighting, water, floor lift and side crush and much valuable equipment was lost. The majority of these panels would have continued to be worked to their planned limit had the strike not happened, and the usual planned salvage of equipment, particularly of the valuable face supports would have been carried out, instead of the districts being sealed off and the equipment lost.
When the strike was over, Arthur Scargill President of the NUM stated that the NUM was organising a return to work with many miners going back to work marching behind a bannerHowever all pickets found guilty of offences were fined.  Still some miners in Scotland and Kent refused to work.

As stated before, some families were split forever, some lost their home unable to keep up mortgage payments, some lost their job unable to work with either striker or strike breaker.  The trade union power was shattered.  If only the democratic vote had been given!

In March, Roy Lynk Finance Officer, and David Prendergast Pensions Officer, were voted onto the NUM national executive in place of Chadburn and Richardson.  However Roy Lynk was dismissed as an NUM official in July, because of his moderate views, and a few days later on 6th July 1985, delegates from 34 Nottinghamshire branches voted overwhelmingly to break away from the NUM and form a new union.  Many predicted (wrongly) that the new union, the Union of Democratic Mineworkers (UDM) would have a very short life, especially when the TUC refused to recognise it. On the 25th March 1985 the NUM voted to have a 50p levy for sacked miners but the motion was defeated.
During the 12 months dispute there was much stress throughout the three counties, and indeed throughout all Coalfields as brother was set against brother in the act of striking or going to work.  Many men torn with the dispute decided to leave the industry but found jobs hard to find. Many women were verbally and some physically abused along with their young children. Some acts by the pickets are too distasteful to recall. Paint was sprayed on houses and cars, and the word ‘scab’ seemed to be the favourite ‘in word’. Other acts of vandalism such as setting fire to garden gates etc were commonplace.
In North Derbyshire Area Tony Benn MP (Lab) for Chesterfield drove through the night to join miners marching back into Markham Colliery at the end of the strike on Tuesday morning. Denis Skinner MP for Bolsover also attended Duckmanton Welfare in time to join the march. The day before the last 70 striking miners at Ireland still jeered working miners leaving the car park reached a crescendo shouting ‘scabs’. Police stood by as the buses left the pit.

The vast majority of striking miners returned to work. It would be a testing time at work as non strikers mixed with strikers. Ken Moses Area Director stated that those dismissed during the dispute for criminal damage would not get their jobs back but others convicted of petty crime such as taking coal from a tip to keep their families warm would be reinstated.

A total of 120 men were sacked. The cost of the strike both in terms of human terms where families were trying to exist below the breadline resulted in families breaking up as tensions made life unbearable and many fell into arrears with their rented properties. A staggering estimate of £25 million was spent on security. Police arrested 1,200 men during the year long strike and dealt with 491 cases of intimidation of working miners and 810 cases of criminal damage. The Police suffered 239 injuries to their members and 62 pickets were injured also.

On a personal note I cannot understand why the miners in North Derbyshire who had voted by a majority not to strike were overruled by their union executive. I am sure that the Union did not foresee the damage they would do. It only hastened some pit closures due to districts and equipment deteriorating from lack of maintenance resulting in millions of £s in lost production and sales and future orders were now cancelled from some sources as they thought they could not rely on delivery in the future.

This always happens when strikes occur as has been proven in every strike in the past when some men have lost their jobs. As mentioned before my Grandad Eli White lost his livelihood of a good job by using force in the 1926 strike and it was to cost him dearly.
There had been 1,100 cases of intimidation (960 working miners) reported to the Nottinghamshire Police. Around 320 police officers were hurt and there were 2,417 arrests throughout.

Throughout the Coalfields many miners were sacked because of serious offences during the dispute including 3 murder charges, 4 offences of criminal damage with intent to endanger life, about 1,020 offences of criminal damage, 5 threats to kill, 3 offences for possessing explosives, numerous cases of vandalism, 680 sacked for violence and sabotage, around 1,680 miners were charged with obstructing the police in their duties, also cases of theft and breaches of the Mines and Quarries Act 1954 and assault on fellow miners. Around 20,000 people were injured during the dispute and 200 were committed to jail, 2 were killed on the picket line. 3 others were killed whilst digging coal at the outcrop. 965 were sacked. Overall some 1,390 police were injured, 85 of them serious. There were numerous charges brought on the pickets and miners complained about 255 alleged assault cases and some 550 complaints against the police. 9,800 were arrested. It was not a successful battle on either side.

Kent Miners Proposed To Carry On The Strike
But The Vote Was Defeated 170 To 19

Yorkshire miners also wanted to stay out until 728 sacked miners were reinstated. That motion was defeated by 98 votes to 91.

South Wales Area miners voted to return to work without an agreement. The year long strike was over but the memories would linger on forever.

The damage done to the industry was irreversible and recovery impossible.

To me it seemed a great pity that through the sake of a vote by Nottinghamshire miners that could have given the unanimous decision required a great industry was brought to its knees. I am sure that previous members of the traditional MFGB (Miners’ Federation of Great Britain) and the NUM (National Union of Mineworkers) from 1944 on would have turned in their grave at the outcome.

Past Presidents of MFGB

  • Ben Pickard 1889-1904
  • Enoch Edwards 1904-1912
  • Robert Smillie 1912-1922
  • Herbert Smith 1922-1929
  • Thomas Richards 1929-1931
  • Ebby Edwards 1931-1932
  • Peter Lee 1932-1934
  • Jack Jones 1934-1939
  • Will Lawther 1939-1944

PastPresidents of NUM

  • Will Lawther 1944-1954
  • Ernest Jones 1954-1960
  • Alwyn Machen 1960
  • Sid Ford 1960-1971
  • Joe Gormley 1971-1982
  • Arthur Scargill 1982-2002
  • Ian Lavery 2002-2012
  • Nicky Wilsom 2012-

General Secretaries of MFGB

  • Thomas Ashton 1889-1919
  • Frank Hodges 1919-1924
  • Arthur J Cook 1924-1932
  • Ebby Edwards 1932-1944

General Secretaries of NUM

  • Ebby Edwards 1944-1946
  • Arthur Horner 1946-1959
  • Will Paynter 1959-1968’ Lawrence Daly 1968-1984
  • Peter Heathfield 1984-1992
  • Arthur Scargill 1992
  • vacant
  • Steve Kemp 2002-2007
  • Chris Kitchen 2007-

During the Strike

During the strike apart from normal surveying duties on surface, office and underground my part to keep the pit open from Jan 1984 to Mar 1985 at weekends, Bank holidays mainly on afternoon shift and including Boxing Day (you never get that back):

  • Security 10 shifts
  • Power House and Main surface fan readings 50 shifts
  • Lamp Room 7 shifts
  • Control Room 2 shifts
  • Shaft exams 1 shift
  • Underground booster fan 1 shift
  • Banking 14 shifts
  • Compressors 5 shifts.

Then the NACODS strike in May 1985: 5 shifts on underground auxiliary fan and conveyor examinations.  All these were extra shifts and foreign to normal routine.

All these jobs I had done before and others as well during the previous strikes. It was found by senior staff personnel that some men had had a ‘cushy number’ and in future would find that they would have to do another job as well during the shift. Manpower was decreased at every pit shortly afterwards.

They had shot themselves in the foot!


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