Victorious miners return to work after striking for seven weeks
Miners throughout the country will start reporting for work at 6am on Monday after the 96 per cent support for the revised Wilberforce recommendations announced in the ballot by the National Union of Mineworkers yesterday.
There was an immediate cheery reaction. Some miners returned to work to carry out safety duties, and the Government, which has been blowing hot and cold about the effects of power cuts, declared that the country might be back to normal within a fortnight. This statement was entrusted to Lord Jellicoe, the Minister appointed by Mr Heath to coordinate the recovery effort.
None of the country’s 269 collieries will be closed on Monday as a result of the strike. Twenty-two coal faces out of a total of 1,000 have been lost, a small number considering that the strike has lasted seven weeks. Even the National Coal Board admits that 11 were in a very poor condition before the strike began. The Central Electricity Generating Board reacted with pleasure to the miners’ decision, and a spokesman declared that its power recovery operation was going extremely well, “far better than we dared to hope.” The power stations might be able to get back to normal more quickly than anticipated.
Ironically, there was a power cut at NUM headquarters just as the Electoral Reform Society was handing over the result of the ballot to Mr Joe Gormley, the union’s president. This did not hold up the proceedings for longer than a minute, when Mr Gormley was able to announce that of the 217,620 valid votes, 210,039 supported the revised recommendations, and only 7,581 opposed them.
Mr Gormley said that his immediate reaction was one of happiness that “such a big majority vindicated those executive members who decided to recommend acceptance.” He hoped that preparatory work would start immediately so that coal could be cut quickly when there was a full resumption on Monday.
Later the union dispatched letters to all areas asking them to resume work as soon as possible. It stated: “In the interests of the nation as a whole and particularly to assist those fellow trade unionists who so ably assisted us, many of whom are now on short time, every effort must be made to supply fuel to industry in the shortest possible time.”
Meanwhile the Department of Trade and Industry has banned coal exports, except under licence, until further notice and British Rail has announced that a full pattern of peak and off-peak electric suburban and local train services will be restored in England and Scotland from Monday. But many trains will have fewer coaches, and except for longer distance trains, heating will remain off.