The run-up to the Great Strike
On November 3rd 1983 the NUM started an official overtime ban, which, on January 14th 1984, Scargill claimed was having a "devastating effect". In a sense , yes – the miners had lost a good proportion of their wages usually earnt by doing overtime; colliery winders in particular lost up to a third of their wages. By March each Yorkshire miner had lost an average £360. According to one method of calculation, the NCB actually profitted from the ban (through reducing stockpiles rather than continuing over-production). Nevertheless, stockpiles had been considerably reduced. In January to February 1984 there was action by Bogside and Polmaise miners in Scotland against pit closures, whilst there were spontaneous walk-outs throughout Scotland in response to new shifts and a productivity deal. The Scottish NUM executive refused to call an all-out strike, saying there was no support. Polmaise miners stormed out of the meeting and verbally attacked McGahey.
By March 1984 it was clear that the NCB were trying to provoke a strike – probably in the hope that – due to the relatively lesser use of coal during the summer – it would all be over by November or December '84. These provocations included:
- a suggestion by MacGregor that compensation paid to minerswhose homes were damaged due to subsidence of the ground beneath them due to coal mining was too much and that miners were often craftily puttting in "unjusitifed" claims.
- the laying-off of Staffordshire miners on Mondays, in order for safety work to be done which would usually have been done during overtime.
- petty arguments over break-time and the interpretation of work-records.
- locking out miners late for shifts after having attnded union meetings, especially at pits with a reputation for militancy such as Monktonhall and Polmaise.
The scene was now set for the all-out confrontation planned, in very rough outline, by the Tories some 6 years previously.