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Run-up to the strike

The Conservatives come to power

The Conservatives won the election in November 1924. At this time, unemployment was high and many of those employed were worse off than before the war. To make matters worse, in 1925 the government returned to the gold standard, and British exports declined. The Trades Union Congress (TUC)'s General Council (TUC) considered coordinated industrial action to improve conditions, but feared that an all-out general strike would bring revolutionary elements to the forefront.

A turning point arrived on 30 June 1925, when the mine owners gave employees a month's notice that wages would be cut and an extra hour added to the working day. The new leader of the Miners’ Federation, A.J. Cook, was firm in his view: 'Not a penny off the pay, not a minute on the day'. The miners appealed to their colleagues in the Triple Alliance for support, and in July 1925 the National Union of Railwaymen and the National Transport Workers' Federation agreed to embargo the transport of coal.

Alarmed at this prospect, the government offered to temporarily subsidise the miners' wages and the embargo was suspended. However, the subsidy was only for nine months. The Cabinet saw the possibility of mass action by the unions as a direct threat and decided to plan for the worst. The government established the Organisation for the Maintenance of Supplies (OMS) in 1925, which set up stores of food and fuel and a force of volunteers to drive trains, buses and other transport in the event of a future strike. In the meantime, the government appointed the Samuels Commission to consider the future of coal mining and, in 1926, its report recommended the reduction of wages as essential.

The Miners’ Federation rejected this idea and, once the subsidy expired, they prepared for industrial action. On 1 May, the Trades Union Congress (TUC) member unions pledged support for the miners and the General Strike began on 3 May 1926.