Marches, strikes and occupations.Trade Union and Political Action In South Tyneside and South Shields in the 60s and 70's.
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The 1972 & 1974 Miners' Strikes

click for more info.The 1972 and 1974 miners' strikes afforded the opportunity for the Trades Union Council to engage in action in accordance with its policy of direct action. The Trades Union Council provided all the traditional forms of support in its expression of solidarity. Public collections were made, public meetings were addressed and local trade union branches were called upon to respect the miners' picket lines. The public were urged to send cash, clothing and food to the miners' strike committee, and local traders were encouraged to provide cheap goods to striking miners.

More unconventional support was provided by the Trades Union Council's campaign to maximise energy use. In 1974 national coal stocks were running low and the Heath government, in something like desperation, introduced a government campaign to save fuel using the slogan - 'Switch it off'. Local town councils were urged by government to save fuel by switching off street lights and lights in public buildings. Few councils in the North seemed to respond. The Trades Union Council sought to encourage the public to use more energy and introduced its own campaign - 'Switch it on'. The public were urged to switch lights on and to leave them burning at night.

The 1974 strike was, in many ways, a re-run of the 1972 strike, and lessons learned then were applied to a range of industrial disputes. The most unconventional and most direct intervention from the Trades Union Council came in the form of help to striking miners to maximise their claim to social security supplementary benefits. This was achieved by facilitating and legitimising, the services of the Claimants Union to the miners' 'Strike Claims Committee'. This action was important to provide the financial help to strikers to survive, but also to boost their moral by allowing each miner to feel that he was playing a direct role in the strike process.

The Department of Health and Social Security officials had set up a claims sub-office in the miners head-quarters, the Armstrong Hall, in South Shields. The miners had been persuaded by the SSTUC to set up a 'Strike Claims Committee' to assist each miner in his claim for benefits. The Claimants Union acted as 'advisers' to this Committee and helped to provide a personal adviser (technically 'a friend') to accompany each miner when claiming. In this way precedents were set for the payment of 'urgent needs' benefits for rent, fuel, clothing, etc. The news of any new payment was quickly spread to all miners, locally and nationally.

The confrontation between miners and DHSS officials became fraught at times and on one notable occasion, with unconscious irony, the DHSS officials withdrew their labour.
A measure of the success of the co-operative action came after the 1972 strike when, in reply to a parliamentary question by Arthur Blenkinsop MP, it was revealed that, per capita, single miners in South Shields had received five times more in payment of supplementary benefits than in the rest of the coalfields.

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