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Militancy, initiative and support: the conduct of the 1972 miners’ strike

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy

This thesis examines the 1972 miners’ strike as a class conflict. The strike’s immediate causes were job losses and stagnating wages leading to a high wage claim that sought to redress the decline but challenged the Government’s inflation control mechanism. It considers the overtime ban that prepared the miners for the subsequent strike, and shows that the picketing of stocks, which determined the strike’s outcome, was largely peaceful, and demonstrates that any hostile picketing was directed against the perceived strike-breaking role of officials and clerks who crossed the picket lines. 
The thesis assesses the growing disconnect between the miners and their leadership, whose collaborative policies implicated them in pit closures and wage restraint. It shows that the leadership’s instructions on picketing were often defied by the pickets, with decisions determined at local rather than national level. It demonstrates that instructions to continue safety cover and allow pit maintenance were openly dismissed and defied by the pickets, who saw, within the issue, the entire future of the industry. It also addresses the support won by the pickets from other trade unionists, which built upon links established between workers during the overtime ban and the strike, rather than between union leaders. 
The thesis shows that the Government, which had desired a confrontation with the public sector, was unprepared for the pickets’ swift success in curtailing movement of coal stocks, and that its defeat was largely due to its own complacency and belief that it had the upper hand. It demonstrates that the Cabinet was hugely frustrated at its inability to find a remedy to curb the mobile and mass picketing, which were largely legal, and led it to seek changes to the operation of the police and to the law to curb future picketing that it increasingly saw as subversive.
Original languageEnglish
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Award date1 Feb 2020

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