top of page

Miners' Strike 1984/5 Speech at Wombwell WMC 23/3/2024 by Ken Capstick

The Miners’ Strike, 1984/85

KEN CAPSTICK

Vice President, National Union of Mineworkers, Yorkshire Area

1990-1994



Ken Capstick speaks at Wombwell WM, Saturday, 23 March 2024

 

THE MINERS’ STRIKE OF 1984/85 WAS AN HISTORICAL EVENT THAT WILL BE DISCUSSED AND ANALYSED FOR MANY YEARS TO COME.

 

IT HAD ITS ORIGINS DECADES EARLIER WITH THE NATIONALISATION OF THE COAL INDUSTRY IN 1947 AND TODAY I WANT TO PUT IT IN ITS HISTORICAL CONTEXT

 

FOLLOWING NATIONALISATION MANY MINERS’ LEADERS AT THE TIME 

BELIEVED THE UNION HAD ACHIEVED A LONG DESIRED OBJECTIVE AND AT 

LAST THE INDUSTRY BELONGED TO THE MINERS

 

DURING THE YEARS FOLLOWING NATIONALISAT5ION MINERS’ LEADERS 

BECAME VERY COMPLIANT AND ACCEPTED LOW WAGE INCREASES

BECAUSE OUR LEADERS, AT THE TIME, FELT THEY HAD TO MAKE 

NATIONALISATION WORK AFTER MANY YEARS OF FIGHTING FOR IT

 

THEY BELIEVED THEY HAD MADE A GREAT STRIDE IN THE MINERS 

LONG HELD DESIRE FOR SOCIALISM AND COMMON OWNERSHIP OF THE 

MEANS OF PRODUCTION, DISTRIBUTION AND EXCHANGE

 

WHAT MINERS HISTORICALLY HAD ALWAYS WANTED WAS TO OWN THE INDUSTRY ITSELF – THEY WANTED THE FULL FRUITS OF THEIR LABOUR BY HAND OR BY BRAIN.

WHILST IT WAS A STEP FORWARD IN REMOVING THE OLD COAL-OWNERS AND THE PRIVATISED NATURE OF THE INDUSTRY IT FELL SHORT OF THE HISTORICAL AIMS OF MINERS

 

SO IT WAS A SMALL STEP FOR A MAN BUT IT FELL FAR SHORT OF WHAT MINERS HAD ALWAYS WANTED

 

THIS COMPLIANCE LED TO MINERS’ LIVING STANDARDS GRADUALLY OVERTIME DETERIORATING AND BY 1972 MINERS WERE 17thIN THE INDUSTRIAL WAGES LEAGUE AND THE 1972 MINERS’ STRIKE BEGAN.

 

LED BY A YOUNG MILITANT MINERS’ LEADER ARTHUR SCARGILL MINERS AND THOUSANDS OF TRADE UNIONISTS DESCENDED ON A COKING PLANT AT SALTLEY GATE IN BIRMINGHAM. 

THE COKING PLANT WAS  CLOSED BY MASS PICKETING WHICH WON THE STRIKE AND VICTORY TO THE MINERS  -- WINNING A MASSIVE WAGE INCREASE AND THE EVENTUAL END OF TED HEATH’S PREMIERSHIP.

 

IT WOULD BE WRONG, HOWEVER TO SAY THAT NO GAINS WERE MADE

ONE GREAT STRIDE FORWARD, WAS THE NATIONAL POWER LOADING AGREEMENT OF 1966 BUT FOR THE NCB IT BECAME A NIGHTMARE

 

CONTRACTS AND INCENTIVES WERE, AT LAST, ABANDONED IN FAVOUR OF A BASIC WAGE

 

A MINER IN KENT WAS ON THE SAME WAGES AS A MINER IN YORKSHIRE FOR DOING THE SAME JOB

MINERS IN SCOTLAND, ENGLAND OR WALES WERE ON THE SAME WAGE FOR DOING THE SAME JOB

 

A FACE WORKER IN SCOTLAND WAS ON THE SAME WAGE AS A FACEWORKER IN WALES

 

A LOCO DRIVER IN ENGLAND WAS ON THE SAME WAGE AS A LOCO DRIVER IN ANY OTHER PART OF THE COUNTRY

 

·      WAGES HOWEVER REMAINED LOW AND ONE MINER SAID TO ME – HE TOOK HIS WAGE PACKET HOME, THREW IT ON THE TABLE, AND IT TOOK HALF-AN-HOUR FOR IT TO FLOAT DOWN AND LAND

 

THIS SITUATION LED TO UNITY AMONG MINERS RIGHT ACROSS THE BRITISH COALFIELD AND THE FIGHT FOR IMPROVED WAGES BEGAN WITH THE THREE HISTORIC STRIKES AND THE VICTORIES OF 1969, 1972 AND 1974.

 

IN 1974 LABOUR WAS RETURNED TO POWER AND TRIED TO REINTRODUCE AN INCENTIVE SCHEME DESIGNED TO BREAK MINERS’ UNITY AND WERE SUPPORTED BY THE UNION’S RIGHT WING WHO WERE RAPIDLY LOSING THEIR POWER AND INFLUENCE TO THE EMERGING LEFT LED BY –

 

ARTHUR SCARGILL IN YORKSHIRE

MICHAEL McGAHEY  IN SCOTLAND

EMLYN WILLIAMS IN SOUTH WALES

JOE WHELAN IN NOTTS

JACK COLLINS IN KENT

 

THE BALLOT RESULT WAS A MASSIVE REJECTION OF A RETURN TO THE RETURN AN INCENTIVE SCHEME

 

THE GOVERNMENT AND THE NUM’s RIGHT WING, LED BY JOE GORMLEY, AGAIN IN 1977, LOST A FURTHER BALLOT ON THE INTRODUCTION OF AN INCENTIVE SCHEME BUT THE NOTTS AREA BROKE RANKS AND SIGNED UP TO INCENTIVE AGREEMENTS GRADUALLY LEADING TO DISUNITY IN THE COALFIELDS AND THE EVENTUAL INTRODUCTION OF AN INCENTIVE SCHEME ACROSS THE INDUSTRY.  MASSIVELY DAMAGING THE STRENGTH IN UNITY WE HAD GAINED AND WHICH HAD WON THE DISPUTES OF 1969, 1972 AND 1974.

 

THE DAMAGE THE INCENTIVE SCHEME DID TO MINERS’ UNITY BECAME A GIFT TO MARGARET THATCHER AND THE TORIES IN THEIR QUEST TO DECIMATE AND DESTROY THE BRITISH MINING INDUSTRY

 

IN 1979 WE WERE BEING CONFRONTED BY A THATCHER GOVERNMENT ABSOLUTELY DETERMINED TO SMASH UP OUR INDUSTRY AND NOT JUST THE MINING INDUSTRY – 

 

THE MINERS, THE DOCKERS, THE STEEL WORKERS, THE CAR PLANTS, THE ENGINEERING INDUSTRY – WERE ALL UNDER ATTACK

 

THATCHER WAS ABSOLUTELY DETERMINED TO SMASH - NOT JUST THE MINING INDUSTRY AND THE NATIONAL UNION OF UNION OF MINEWORKERS - BUT THE WHOLE OF TRADE UNIONISM IN BRITAIN

 

IT IS NOW A FACT - REVEALED WITH THE RELEASE OF CABINET PAPERS IN 2014 - UNDER THE 30 YEARS RULE – THAT THE TORIES HAD A SECRET PLAN FROM WHEN THEY WERE IN OPPOSITION – CALLED THE RIDLEY PLAN – TO DESTROY THE BRITISH MINING INDUSTRY, THE NATIONAL UNION OF MINEWORKERS, MINING COMMUNITIES AND MINERS’ JOBS.

 

THE TORIES WERE ENCOURAGED BY THE INTRODUCTION OF THE INCENTIVE SCHEME AND THE DIVISIONS IT CREATED.

 

ARTHUR TOLD US THEN -  HAS NATIONAL PRESIDENT - THAT THE TORIES HAD A SECRET PLAN TO CLOSE MORE THAN 70 PITS ALONG WITH AT LEAST 70,000 MINERS’ JOBS.

 

WE WERE TOLD HE WAS CRAZY AND THAT IT WAS A LIE

THE LIE WAS THATCHER’S LIE

 

AND THE RELEASE OF THE CABINET PAPERS IN 2014 -  UNDER THE 30 YEAR RULE  -- DEMONSTRATED WHO TOLD THE TRUTH AND WHO TOLD THE LIES WHEN IT WAS REVEALED THAT THE TORIES DID HAVE A PLAN TO DECIMATE THE BRITISH MINING INDUSTRY AND THEY HAD APPOINTED THE BUTCHER McGREGOR TO DO THE JOB.  NOTHING COULD BE CLEARER AS TO THE GOVERNMENT’S INTENTIONS.

 

IN MARCH 1984 - CORTONWOOD BECAME THE CRUX

 

CORTONWOOD – A YORKSHIRE COLLIERY – HAD AMPLE RESERVES OF COAL

 AND THE ANNOUNCEMENT OF ITS CLOSURE HAD THROWN DOWN THE

 GAUNTLET TO THE NUM

 

WE HAD A STARK CHOICE

 

IF WE DIDN’T FIGHT FOR COTTONWOOD WE HAD LOST THE FIGHT FOR THE INDUSTRY ITSELF– WITHOUT A FIGHT

 

WE HAD TO FIGHT OR THE BRITISH COAL INDUSTRY WOULD BE DECIMATED

 AND WE KNOW NOW THAT THAT WAS THE PLAN – THE RIDLEY PLAN -

 CONCEIVED IN THE LATE 1970s  - WOULD BE IMPLEMENTED ONCE THE

 TORIES REGAINED OFFICE.  – WHICH THEY DID IN 1979.

 

IN 1984 I WAS A DELEGATE TO THE NUM YORKSHIRE AREA COUNCIL, IN BARNSLEY, AND THE DECISION WAS TAKEN TO IMPLEMENT THE BALLOT RESULT OF 1981 TO TAKE STRIKE ACTION IF A YORKSHIRE PIT WAS THREATENED WITH CLOSURE OTHER THAN WHERE THERE WAS PROVEN SEAM EXHAUSTION AND FROM THERE THE YORKSHIRE MINERS TOOK STRIKE ACTION ON THE 5thOF MARCH 1984

 

I OFTEN REFER TO THE CHOICE FACED BY A YOUNG LAD AT SCHOOL.

 

HE KNOWS THE SCHOOL BULLY WILL BE WAITING FOR HIM WHEN HE LEAVES SCHOOL TO GO HOME

 

THE BULLY IS OLDER AND BIGGER THAN HE IS AND SURELY ENOUGH THE

 BULLY IS WAITING FOR HIM OUTSIDE THE SCHOOL GATES

 

HE HAS A CHOICE

 

HE CAN COWER DOWN AND TAKE HIS BEATING OR HE CAN STAND AND FIGHT

 

IF HE FIGHTS HE MIGHT WIN,  BUT HE STILL MIGHT LOSE AFTER LANDING A FEW PUNCHES OF HIS OWN

 

IF HE DOESN’T FIGHT HE WILL DEFINITELY LOSE

 

IF HE FIGHTS – WIN OR LOSE – HIS VICTORY IS IN THE FACT THAT HE DID FIGHT OR AS ARTHUR OFTEN PUTS IT ABOUT OUR STRUGGLE IN 1984.  THE VICTORY WAS IN THE STRUGGLE ITSELF.

 

WE FOUGHT FOR 12 MONTHS.  MINERS PICKETED THROUGHOUT BRITAIN AND IN SOME CASES ABROAD.

 

MINERS AND THEIR FAMILIES FOUGHT AT THE BATTLE OF ORGREAVE LIKE WORKING CLASS LIONS, HEROES AND HEROINES.

-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

 

I WANT TO PAY TRIBUTE TO THE MAGNIFICENT WOMEN AGAINST PIT CLOSURES

 

THEY COLLECTED MONEY IN EVERY WAY THEY COULD.  THEY WENT ON VIOLENT PICKET LINES, ATTACKED BY THATCHER’S THUGS IN BLUE AND ATTENDED RALLIES.  THEY COLLECTED AND MADE THE FOOD PARCELS THAT SUSTAINED US FOR 12 MONTHS

 

THEY STOOD AT FACTORY GATES COLLECTING DONATIONS FOR FOOD PARCELS

 

THEY FOUND THE COURAGE TO STAND ON PLATFORMS AND ADDRESS LARGE CROWDS OF HUNDREDS OF PEOPLE – 

 

THE WOMEN WERE NOT, STANDING BEHIND THEIR MEN, THEY WERE STANDING SHOULDER TO SHOULDER WITH THEIR MEN

THEY WERE MAGNIFICENT JUST AS THE MINERS THEMSELVES WERE WHO TOOK DAILY BATTERINGS FROM THE POLICE OFTEN ON HORSE BACK WIELDING TRUNCHEONS

 

IN 1992 THE TORY VINDICTIVENESS CARRIED ON WHEN MICHAEL HESELTINE ANNOUNCED 31 PIT CLOSURES IN A SINGLE DAY AND THERE WAS A MASSIVE PUBLIC OUTCRY THAT FORCED A TEMPORARY RETREAT BUT THE CLOSURE PROGRAMME WENT AHEAD FURTHER DECIMATING THE MINING INDUSTRY

 

WE MUST NEVER FORGET THOSE UNIONS WHO STOOD WITH US THROUGHOUT THAT STRIKE

 

I WAS ON A RADIO PROGRAMME SOMETIME IN THE EARLY PART OF THIS CENTURY DEBATING WITH GODFREY BLUM – RIGHT WING SUPPORTER OF NIGEL FARAGE.   BLUM SAID, WE DON’T WANT TO GO BACK TO THE 1970’S

 

I SAID, I DO – PEOPLE HAD JOBS FOR LIFE

 

WE HAD A VIBRANT INDUSTRIAL BASE IN THE 1970s  -- WE HAD STRONG TRADE UNIONS.  AND WE HAD DECENT WAGES BY COMPARISON WITH TODAY.

I WOULD GO BACK TO THE 1970s ANY DAY

 

WE DIDN’T HAVE FOOD BANKS

WE DIDN’T HAVE ZERO HOURS CONTRACTS

 

I LOOKED IT UP 

IN THE 1950s, 1960s, 1970s AND 1980s.

HOMELESSNESS WAS ABSOLUTELY NEGLIGIBLE IN BRITAIN

 

UNTIL THATCHER’S SELL-OFF OF COUNCIL HOUSES CAUSED A HOUSING PROBLEM ALL OVER BRITAIN STARTING IN THE 1990s.

 

HOMELESSNESS IN THE UK STANDS AT AROUND 309,000 AND RESEARCH BY SHELTER (THE HOMELESS CHARITY) AS THE FIGURE FOR ENGLAND AT 271,000 WITH 123,000 BEING HOMELESS CHILDREN. 

 

THAT’S THE DISGRACE OF THE HOMELESS CRISIS WE NOW HAVE IN BRITAIN BUT WE CAN AFFORD BILLIONS AND BILLIONS OF POUNDS FOR FOREIGN FRUITLESS WARS

 

IT IS A SCANDAL CREATED BY THATCHER’S SALE OF COUNCIL HOUSES.  

BEFORE THE SALE OF COUNCIL HOUSES HOMELESSNESS IN BRITAIN WAS VIRTUALLY NEGLIGIBLE – UNHEARD OF.

 

RECENTLY – I BUMPED INTO AN OLD FRIEND OF MINE I HAD WORKED WITH OVER MANY YEARS.

JOKINGLY, I SAID TO HIM,  I SEE THATCHER IS STILL DEAD

 

KEN – DON’T TRUST HER – DON’T TRUST HER.

 

I DON’T KNOW ABOUT YOU BUT I CAN’T VOTE FOR A LABOUR LEADER WHO SAYS THAT THATCHER WAS A GREAT PRIME MINISTER

DOESN’T HE KNOW - OR DOESN’T HE CARE - WHAT THATCHER DID TO MINERS, THEIR FAMILIES AND THEIR COMMUNITIES.  I WOULD RATHER NOT VOTE AT ALL THAN VOTE FOR STARMER – HE’S AN OUT AND OUT TORY

 

A LABOUR LEADER WHO FAILS TO CONDEMN ISRAEL’S SLAUGHTER OF MORE THAT 13,000 PALESTINIAN CHILDREN IN GAZA – NO WONDER HE PRAISES THATCHER

------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

 

I NOW WANT TO TURN TO THE SCANDAL OF THE MINEWORKERS’ PENSION SCHEME – THE VIEWS I EXPRESS MAY, OR MAY NOT, BE THE VIEWS OF ALL THE TRUSTEES BUT THEY ARE MY VIEWS

 

THE MPS WAS FIRST INTRODUCED IN 1952. WITH MEMBERS PAYING NO MORE THAN 20P A WEEK. BENEFITS BEFORE APRIL 1975 WERE ABYSMALLY SMALL, AFFORDING NO POSSIBILITY FOR MINERS TO RETIRE WITH DIGNITY

 

 

BUILDING ON MINERS NEW FOUND STRENGTH, ARTHUR SCARGILL WAS INSTRUMENTAL IN GAINING A MASSIVE IMPROVEMENT TO THE MPS IN 1975 WHEN IT BECAME A CONTRIBUTIONS BASED SCHEME MASSIVELY ENHANCING THE MINERS’ PENSIONS ON RETIREMENT

 

1N 1994 THE MINEWORKERS’ PENSION SCHEME WAS CLOSED AND THE GOVERNMENTS – BOTH TORY AND LABOUR – HAVE STOLEN HALF OF YOUR MPS PENSION SURPLUSES EVER SINCE AMOUNTING TO A MASSIVE £4.5 BILLION WHICH SHOULD HAVE BEEN USED TO ENHANCE MINERS’ PENSIONS.

 

THE MPS HAS NOT HAD ONE PENNY INCOME SINCE THE SCHEME WAS CLOSED IN 1994 – NEITHER FROM MEMBERS NOR FROM THE GOVERNMENT.

 

THE MPS ONLY HAS INCOME MADE FROM IT’S INVESTMENTS YET THE GOVERNMENT TAKES HALF OF EVERY PENNY OUR INVESTMENTS MAKE FOR US -  WHILE MINERS AND WIDOWS STRUGGLE ON LOW PENSIONS

 

THIS THEFT OF MINERS’ PENSIONS MUST BE STOPPED AND MINERS AND WIDOWS MUST SEE THEIR PENSIONS MASSIVELY INCREASED 

 

IN 2021 WE MANAGED TO GET A PARLIAMENTARY SELECT COMMITTEE OFF THE GROUND TO LOOK INTO MINERS’ PENSIONS.  I WANT TO THANK THOSE WHO GAVE EVIDENCE AND THE SELECT COMMITTEE WHICH CALLED FOR ALL SURPLUSES AND A FURTHER £1.2 BILLION - IN WHAT IS CALLED THE INVESTMENT RESERVE - TO BELONG TO MINERS TO FURTHER ENHANCE PENSIONS FOR MINERS AND WIDOWS.

 

THE GOVERNMENT REJECTED THE SELECT COMMITTEE’S UNANIMOUS DECISION.  BUT MINERS EVERYWHERE EXPECT THAT ANY FUTURE LABOUR GOVERNMENT WILL ADOPT THE FINDINGS OF THE SELECT COMMITTEE HEARING AND STOP THE THEFT OF MINERS’ HARD EARNED PENSIONS.

 

IN THIS YEAR, AS WE LOOK BACK AT THE MINERS’ STRIKE OF 1984/85 WE BELIEVE IT IS TIME FOR THE VINDICTIVENESS AGAINST MINERS AND THEIR FAMILIES TO COME TO AN END. IT IS VICTIMISATION BECAUSE WE HAD THE TEMERITY TO FIGHT FOR OUR INDUSTRY

 

I SAY TO THE GOVERNMENT - GIVE US OUR MONEY BACK – ITS NOT YOUR MONEY – IT BELONGS TO MINERS AND MINERS’ WIDOWS. 

 

IF THERE IS A LABOUR GOVERNMENT AFTER THE NEXT GENERAL ELECTION WE EXPECT THAT GOVERNMENT TO RE-VISIT THE MPS AND HONOUR ITS PROMISE TO DELIVERY PENSIONS JUSTICE FOR MINERS AND THEIR FAMILIES.

 

*** I WAS ONCE TOLD THAT A MINER MUST TAKE HIS COAT OF TWICE TO GET HIS MONEY ---- ONCE TO WORK FOR IT AND ONCE TO FIGHT FOR IT – THE FIGHT FOR PENSIONS’ JUSTICE MUST GO ON UNTIL THAT JUSTICE IS ACHIEVED.

 

 

LAST, BUT DEFINITELY NOT LEAST, I WANT TO ADDRESS THE CRISIS IN OUR NATIONAL HEALTH SERVICE.

 

ON THE 5thJULY 1948 THE NATIONAL HEALTH SERVICE CAME INTO BEING. IT IS A SOCIALIST CONCEPT AND TORIES HATE IT FOR THAT REASON ALONE BUT THERE ARE THOSE IN THE LABOUR PARTY WHO ARE NO BETTER AND ARE CALLING FOR ITS PRIVATISATION

 

ANEURIN BEVAN SAID WHEN THE NHS WAS CREATED UNDER HIS LEADERSHIP AS HEALTH MINISTER IN 1948 

“IT WILL ONLY LAST WHILE FOLKS HAVE THE FAITH TO FIGHT FOR IT”.  HE WAS SO RIGHT.

THE HEALTH SERVICE, WE ALL HAVE TREASURED, IS BEING DESTROYED BY STEALTH AS SERVICES ARE TRANSFERRED FROM THE NHS TO PRIVATE HEALTH

THEY DARE NOT DISMANTLE THE HEATH SERVICE IN ONE GO SO THE PLAN IS TO DO IT LITTLE BY LITTLE MOVING DIFFERENT NATIONAL HEALTH SERVICE PROVISION TO PRIVATE HEALTH HOPING NO ONE NOTICES.

IF WE DON’T HAVE THE FAITH TO FIGHT FOR IT AND SUPPORT THE HEALTH WORKERS WHO ARE IN STRUGGLE  - THEN ONE DAY WE WILL WAKE UP AND THE HEALTH SERVICE WILL BE GONE.

I SAY TO THE TORIES WHO STAND ON THE STEPS OF DOWNING STREET APPLAUDING OUR FANTASTIC HEALTH WORKERS

THEY DO NOT NEED YOUR APPLAUSE – THEY WANT TO FEED THEIR FAMILIES AND THEIR CHILDREN – THEY WANT A DECENT LIVING WAGE

STOP SPENDING BILLIONS AND BILLIONS ON ENDLESS WARS AND GIVE OUR HEALTH WORKERS THE JUSTIFIED WAGE INCREASE THEY ARE DEMANDING.

ONE LAST PIECE OF ADVICE I WAS GIVEN BY MY FATHER WHEN I WAS ABOUT FOURTEEN YEARS OF AGE – HE WAS A LANC, BORN IN BURNLEY –  HE WAS A MINER.

HE SAID THE BEST WAY TO MAKE SURE YOU VOTE THE RIGHT WAY IN ANY ELECTION IS SIMPLE – IT’S EASY.

 

HE SAID, WHEN ALL NEWSPAPERS, THE MIRROR, THE DAILY EXPRESS, THE DAILY MAIL - TELEVISION AND RADIO ARE URGING YOU TO VOTE FOR HIM – MAKE SURE YOU VOTE FOR T’OTHER BUGGER.

 

I WANT TO SAY THANK YOU FOR INVITING ME TO SPEAK AT THIS MEETING TODAY IT HAS BEEN AN ENORMOUS PRIVILEGE FOR ME

THANK YOU VERY MUCH INDEED.

392 views0 comments

Recent Posts

See All

Комментарии


bottom of page