On this day in history….7th February 1974

On this day in history : 7th February 1974 – Prime Minister Edward Heath calls a snap general election and appeals to the miners to suspend their planned strike action….

The 1970s was a decade of power cuts and blackouts, it became a way of life; anything that depended on electricity, industrial or domestic, faced disruption….img_2350

It was a time of discontent throughout much of British industry…. The miners’ dispute had begun in 1971 with a disagreement with the Government over pay…. The National Union of Miners demanded a 43% pay increase, whilst the Government were offering between 7-8%…. In late 1971 the miners voted to take action if their demands were not met…. On the 5th of January 1972 the NUM rejected the pay offer made to them and four days later miners from all over the Country came out on strike….the first time they had done so since 1926….

To start with the miners were to picket coal power stations – but then started to target all power stations….along with coal depots, steelworks and ports…. Dockers supported them by refusing to unload coal from ships….

On the 9th of February 1972 s state of emergency was declared and a 3-day working week introduced to try and conserve electricity…. On the 19th, after much negotiation an agreement was reached with the Government – on the 25th of February the miners accepted an offer and returned to work three days later….

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Markham Colliery – Image: Jabsco via Flickr

This now made the miners some of the highest paid industrial workers…. However, it did not take long for other industries to catch-up and overtake…. By 1973 the miners had gone down to 18th position in the industrial wages league….

The miners realised the strong position they were in – their previous action proving the importance of coal to the nation…. In addition, this time oil prices were soaring because of troubles in the Middle East – and the Unions were hostile towards the Government, who were trying to introduce pay freezes to help the economy….

In late 1973 the miners voted once again to take industrial action if their demands for a further pay increase were not met…. Talks reached stalemate – and with the severe economic circumstances of the Country at the time – Edward Heath was prompted to announce a general election for the 28th of February 1974….appealing at the same time to the miners to suspend their action….

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Edward Heath – Open Media Ltd CC BY-SA 3.0

The miners walked out on strike (supported by other Unions) on the 9th of February; a state of emergency was declared and a 3-day working week reintroduced….

The general election saw a Conservative defeat, leaving Harold Wilson to lead a minority Labour Government…. The miners and new Government came to an agreement and the strike ended on the 19th of February…. The miners returned back to work on the 25th, victorious with a 29% pay deal….