Stephen Cavalier, chief executive of Thompsons Solicitors, looks back at the ’84 – ’85 miners’ strike
2014 marks the 30th anniversary of the miners’ strike, one of the most bitter industrial disputes that Britain has ever seen. Thirty years on, the fallout from the strike is still being felt in former coal mining communities. There are demands for a public inquiry into the dispute and for a government apology for the ruthless and dishonest approach taken to the strikers by the Thatcher government.
In just a few months after being returned to government in 1983 the Conservatives conspired with the National Coal Board (NCB) to announce the closure of 20 pits, putting 20,000 miners out of work. In fact behind the scenes the true figure was more than 3 times that amount of pits and jobs. The National Union of Mine Workers called for a national strike against pit closures in March 1984. That strike was to last a year, a time of hardship and violence for pit communities as they fought to retain their local collieries – often the only source of employment in the area.
Throughout the strike, we at Thompsons fought to defend the mining unions and their members under attack from the Conservative government. We not only acted to protect the interests of the union, but also represented, with considerable success, individual workers who faced serious criminal charges.
During the strike we unhesitatingly committed huge resources and time into supporting the miners and their families.
We worked tirelessly to defend union members who were arrested and detained, usually for picket line offences, and strove to get them released on bail as quickly as possible. We continued to push for charges to be dropped or reduced and, if matters were pursued, we argued for acquittal at trial.
Immediately following the strike, Thompsons handled deafness claims for thousands of miners with substantial success. We also involved in the test cases against the NCB which led to the development of the vibration white finger and chronic bronchitis and emphysema schemes and won the highest average damages for our clients.
Today, we are still resolutely committed to working with trade unions across the UK. We are proud to say that we never work for employers and we never work for the insurance industry. We never have and we never will.