- Had begun before the Great War
- Difficult economic conditions had led employers to resist wage claims but also to enforce more closely conditions of work
- Adverse legal decisions e.g. Taff Vale
- Obvious contrast between great wealth and great poverty (most working men earned less than £160 p.a.)
- Strikes before the war were often bitterly contested e.g. Tonypandy (1911)
- The formation of the Triple Industrial Alliance (Dockers, Miners and Railwaymen) in 1913 had suggested a General Strike was possible
- Syndicalism was seen as a strong force among many Unions
During the war…
- ...the Unions had agreed to ban strikes...
- ...but young militants in areas like Clydeside had organised unofficial strikes.
- The Russian Revolution had been well received by many workers but had greatly alarmed the ruling class.
- Living conditions had improved dramatically and workers were determined to protect their new gains
After the war…
- ...strikes were common and often violent.
- Full employment helped fuel these strikes
- The authorities were particularly alarmed by a Police Strike
- Triple Alliance revived
The 1921 Coal Strike
- There was a long and bitter strike in 1921
- Neither side showed willingness to compromise
- Lord Birkenhead, a Tory minister said, ‘I should have thought the miners the stupidest men in England had I not already met the Mine owners.’
- After the Triple Alliance abandoned the Miners (Black Friday) they were starved back to work and forced to accept severe wage cuts
- There was a brief period of industrial peace
The Causes of the General Strike
- Problems facing the Mining Industry
- History of poor industrial relations
- Government actions
- The Samuel Report
- The Daily Mail Incident
Problems facing the Mining Industry
- Coal was struggling to compete with other fuels (oil) and sources of energy (electricity)
- Too many British mines were small and un-modernised
- Foreign Competition was damaging the profitable export trade
Poor Industrial Relations
- Working conditions were harsh and safety poor
- The Miners had been particularly angered by the Government’s decision to hurriedly restore the Mines to private ownership in 1921
- In 1923 French troops occupied the Ruhr
- German industrial production shut down
- British industry stepped in
- Coal exports increased
- The miners got a pay rise
- In 1925 Churchill returned the pound to the Gold Standard
- The pound (and therefore exports) was over-valued by 10%
- All industry was hit hard, but especially coal
- Baldwin had appealed for industrial moderation (‘Give peace in our time, O Lord’) from both sides.
- This cleverly distanced him from the extremists on both sides.
- However, he also announced that wage cuts were necessary to put industry on its feet.
Poor Industrial Relations
- The return to production of the Ruhr and the impact of the Gold Standard meant that the mine owners demanded wage cuts and longer hours.
- J. Cook coined the slogan, ‘Not a penny off the pay, not a minute on the day’.
- Herbert Smith, the Miner’s President summed up their attitude to compromise; ‘Nowt. We’ve nowt to offer’.