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12 March  
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1984: Miners strike over threatened pit closures
Tens of thousands of Britain's miners have stopped work in what looks like becoming a long battle against job losses.

More than half the country's 187,000 mineworkers are now on strike. Miners in Yorkshire and Kent were the first to down tools this morning - by tonight they had been joined by colleagues in Scotland and South Wales.

The trouble began over an announcement by Chairman of the Coal Board Ian MacGregor six days ago that 20 uneconomic pits would have to close, putting 20,000 miners out of work.

Miners at Cortonwood colliery in Yorkshire - the first earmarked for closure - walked out at midnight on 5 March in protest at the plans.

National Union of Mineworkers president Arthur Scargill is calling on members across the country to join the action. He is relying on flying pickets to drum up support.

'Very lengthy strike'

Today, violence flared on the picket line at Bilston Glen colliery in Scotland, when miners from the recently closed Polmaise pit tried to stop others going into work.

Punches were thrown and one picket was hurt when a vehicle ran over his foot.

At Harworth in Nottinghamshire, where miners are known to be more moderate, miners' wives turned out to support their husbands crossing the picket lines.

In South Wales, initial soundings suggested miners were overwhelmingly opposed to a strike - and a number of pits were still working today.

But local NUM spokesman Terry Thomas predicted support for the stoppage would grow.

"Over the next 24 hours there is going to be a realisation by the members still at work that if 85% of the coalfield see fit to stand up and try to save their industry, I honestly believe they will be joined by the people now at work," he said.

Mr MacGregor says he is ready to fight. "Our customers are prepared for a very lengthy strike. Judging by what our customers have done, they have put together large stocks because of their concern about the fairly wild statements that have been made," he said.

About four months' supply of coal, or 22m tons, at the pitheads and more than 26m at the power stations, have been stockpiled in readiness for a prolonged stoppage.

Mick McGahey, vice-president of the NUM, told a news conference the miners were not just fighting for their own jobs - but other industries too.

He said: "I want to emphasise the knock-on effects of the closure in pits and the loss of miners' jobs, the effect that will have on railways, the steel industry, engineering and electrical industries, because we don't only produce coal."

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Watch/Listen
Silhouette of miners against pithead
Miners leaving work at Mid Glamorgan colliery

Miners' anger boils over


In Context
The miners' strike lasted a year and was one of the longest and possibly most damaging industrial disputes ever seen in Britain.

The strike only began to crumble when the NCB offered miners various pay incentives to return to work before Christmas.

On 3 March 1985, the NUM's executive narrowly voted for a return to work.

Sir Ian MacGregor died of a heart attack in 1998. Former prime minister, Baroness Thatcher, led the tributes for his contribution to British industry.

Arthur Scargill finally retired as NUM president in 2002. Figures for 2002 show there were just 13 deep coal mines in the country where once there were 170 and the once mighty NUM now has a membership of 5,000 when once most of the country's 187,000 miners were members.

Stories From 12 Mar


 
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