1984 Miners Strike - Timeline

The miners' strike of 1984 followed years of disputes between the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) and the Conservative governments of the day. Here is a brief outline of the history behind the 1984 dispute.


JANUARY: Thousands of miners go on strike for the first time in 50 years after talks between the NUM and the National Coal Board break down. The miners were angry over pay and working conditions.

FEBRUARY: The continued strike leaves Britain in darkness as lights powered by coal go out in some parts of the UK. Miners then call off their action after receiving an improved pay offer worth £95million from the government.


FEBRUARY/MARCH: Miners vote to strike again. Conservative Prime Minister Ted Heath calls a general election over his ongoing dispute with mining unions. His supporters want him to stand firm once and for all, while sympathy for the miners and their plight is strong amongst voters. The subsequent election leads to a weak hung parliament led by Labour leader Harold Wilson. Miners call off their strike and the NUM remain the most powerful union in the country.


MAY: Margaret Thatcher becomes the new Tory Prime Minister.


FEBRUARY: The Coal Board announces plans for major pit closures, but Mrs Thatcher bows to pressure from the unions later that month and withdraws her proposals to close 23 pits.


JUNE: The miners show their muscle after 24,000 of them go on strike in South Wales in support of health-care workers. The health workers accept an increased pay offer from the government a few weeks later.


MARCH: Ian MacGregor becomes the new boss of the National Coal Board.  The controversial Scot had found success in turning around the loss-making British Steel Corporation by almost halving the workforce. The signs for the miners quickly become ominous.


MARCH 5: The government announces plans to close Cortonwood pit, near Barnsley. Angry miners from the pit and miners throughout Yorkshire walk out, sparking one of the biggest industrial disputes in the history of Britain.

MARCH 6: Ian MacGregor tells the NUM that 20 pits are earmarked for closure with the loss of 20,000 jobs.

MARCH 12: The dispute escalates to a national level, with Scottish and Welsh miners joining the picket line. An estimated 93,000 miners were now on strike, with NUM President Arthur Scargill calling on members across the country to join the action. Violence flared on the picket line at Bilston Glen colliery in Midlothian, when miners from the Polmaise pit near Stirling tried to stop others going into work. The strike soon takes hold across all 12 pits in Scotland.

JUNE 18: In Scotland, pickets at Ravesncraig Steel Works (pictured) in Motherwell and Hunterston Port failed to stop the coal moving. Then, on June 18, the miners strike reached a bloody high. Police and picketers clashed at the Orgreave coking plant in South Yorkshire. Some 5,000 miners fought with thousands of riot police before lines of mounted police wielding batons charged to break up the crowds. The police were then bombarded by bricks and stones by the angry protesters.

SEPTEMBER: Thousands of miners and police clash once more at Malty Colliery near Rotherham. Miners had now been on strike for six months. With a lack of income, the strain was starting to become unbearable. The NUM and the National Coal Board manage to negotiate an end to the strike, but Mr Scargill refuses to accept it.

NOVEMBER: A growing number of strikers begin to take the decision to return to work. Fighting on the pickets now becomes widespread. At the height of the violence, a South Wales taxi driver is killed when a concrete block was dropped onto his car as he carried a working miner to the pit. Two miners are later jailed for life for his murder.


JANUARY: After a tough Christmas, the trickle of men heading back to work becomes a flood and it becomes apparent to the NUM that the strike will have to be called off.

MARCH 3: At a specially convened conference, NUM delegates vote by 98 to 91 to call off the strike.

MARCH 5: More than half of Scotland's 15,000 miners had remained on strike for a full year. Thousands more marched back to work behind union banners to the accompaniment of colliery brass bands. The strike had ended in complete failure for the miners. Margaret Thatcher and her government then pressed ahead with plans to decimate Britain's mining industry.


OCTOBER: The government announces plans to close a third of Britain's deep coal mines with the loss of 31,000 jobs. The mining industry becomes a shadow of its former self.

by Graham Fraser