The 1984-85 miners’ strike
There is an interesting piece in The Observer today, A dirty business, that reflects on the 1984-85 miners’ strike in the UK. I have quite vivid recollections of this dispute, not least because I was in the thick of it. Recently qualified as a school teacher, I was resident in South Yorkshire at the time and could not avoid becoming politicised by the whole affair. The battle between police and pickets at Orgreave and the police ‘occupation’ of Armthorpe were real eye-openers for me, and a sad indictment on life in Thatcherite Britain.
I was too young then to read the machinations behind the miners’ strike. Today, it hits hard. Brings to mind the same struggle being fought here and now in the Narmada Valley in Gujarat, India.
The coal strikes of the mid 1980’s caught the sympathetic imagination of the media world. This was also the case in Australia until it had a strike of its own, when the Premier of the State of Queensland called the bluff of the then highly unionised workers in the electricity industry. Queensland has some of the highest quality and cheapest production of coal anywhere in the world and yet for 6 months there were rolling blackouts across the state.
The Premier of Queensland won in the end, the voters did not support the pay rise for the unionised workers, as the voters were sick and tired of blackouts.
Jeremy once put me onto this publication, “Commanding Heights” which is available on video and in paper form. See the web-site:
and click on the link to and look up 1985. The UK coal strike is listed among the key world events in the subject area of International Political Economy (IPE)
Mettali, you’re referring to the Narmada dam project, right?
We live in the village where a goodly proportion of the mineworkers of Cortonwood Colliery lived.The Colliery site is unrecognisable now having been redeveloped with the help of enterprise status which attracts businesses to set up in the area. Incentives include many grants and discounted business rates as well as a ready made pool of available labour in the shape of unemployed and sometimes unemployable miners. It has to be acknowledged that environmentally, the South Yorkshire Coalfield has improved immeasurably since the demise of the coal industry. A housing estate of about 500 “executice homes” has sprung up where once an ancient coking plant belched out its carcenogenic fumes and ducks and swans drift about on a man made pond on the site of the pit-head baths. Prosperity is improving through abundant employment, most of which is in the service sector, answering the phone or serving hamburgers being major players locally. True, there are a number of small manufacturing units, baseball hats, fibreglass baths and PVC window frames spring to mind but I sense there are people who live hereabouts who still consider themselves to be ex-miners and genuinely miss the unity and comeradery of the industry that dominated the region for so many years. I welcome the change but am deeply sorry that it was wrought from such pain and anger. Yes it was like a warzone, but who really won?