During the 1980s, Trade Unions encountered significant challenges and losses, this occurred against a backdrop of rapid expansion and influence. Before the 1979 conservative election victory it was distinctively voluntarist, with minor legislative intervention. (Gallie et al, 1996).Two strikes in particular, the miners’ strike and the News International industrial dispute changed the face of Industrial Relations in the UK. The conduct and outcome of the disputes led to significant changes with regards to the role of the state, the role of employers and the power of the unions in contemporary Industrial relations. This essay will critically evaluate the conduct of the unions, the state, the miners and the police, it will consider the changing role of the state and the police towards industrial action and the effect the conduct and outcome of the strike has had on present day industrial relations.
Before the 1984 miners’ strike, the NUM was in a very strong powerful position, having defeated the government in 1972 and 1974 over wage levels. However unlike 1984, the miners voted overwhelmingly to back the union and strike, thus causing severe disruption as the UK was heavily dependent on coal at that time. Certainly, it was believed that these defeats contributed to the downfall of the previous conservative government in 1974. (Richards, 1996), since the Government had to call a state of emergency, the strikers remained united and not a single miner broke either strike. Consequently in 1974 the Government called the general election and famously asked “who governs Britain “the government or the miners? (Beynon)
The 1984 strike, in comparison was a fight to save jobs and mining communities, the conservative government had regained power in 1979 and were determined to challenge the power of the NUM and defeat the miners.(Beynon,1985).)Indeed, such was their determination to redress the power balance, they planned meticulously for the next dispute even before they were re-elected, by commissioning The Ridley Report. This set out the strategies for success, such as fighting and winning the smaller industrial battles first, stockpiling vast quantities of coal to use in the event of a prolonged strike and converting coal powered stations to oil. (Winterton & Winterton, 1989).
Compared to the united front shown in 1972 and 1974, in 1984 there were splits in the NUM about whether a national ballot should even be held. In the event a national ballot was not called, this set the scene for divisions and bitterness as pits such as Nottinghamshire and Lancashire refused to strike in the absence of the national ballot. (Becket & Hencke, 2009).Undoubtedly the decision not to hold a national ballot provided ammunition for the government to attack the union and query the authority of the strike whilst portraying the NUM as being anti-democratic. (Beynon,1985).Whether holding a national ballot would have affected the outcome of the strike cannot be answered, however...