The Cabinet Papers banner

The strike and consequential legislation

Workers' reaction

Workers' reaction to the strike call was immediate and overwhelming, and surprised both the government and the Trades Union Congress (TUC). The number of strikers fell between 1.5 and 1.75 million people. The strike was effective in closing mines, transport, newspapers, docks and power stations. The emergency systems put into place by the government kept the country working, although it was a long way from 'business as usual'. The army and volunteer workers from the Organisation for the Maintenance of Supplies helped maintain basic services.

Trades Union Congress (TUC) officials were anxious about radical elements within their own ranks. Their concerns also centred on the continuation of the strike and there were fears that a drift back to work would damage any future negotiating position of the trade unions.  As a result of these concerns a negotiating committee was set up, but representatives of the Miners’ Federation didn't attend. The memorandum for settlement followed the recommendations of the Samuel Commission.

End of the strike

The negotiating committee accepted the memorandum without the agreement of the Miners’ Federation and without securing an undertaking on the reinstatement of miners sacked for their strike action. Many strikers were deeply disappointed, and the miners felt they had been betrayed. The strike ended after nine days on 12 May. It had been essentially defeated in its main objectives and the miners did not return to work for many months.

Trade Disputes and Trade Union Act 1927

In 1927, the Conservative government launched a legislative assault against unionism. The Trade Disputes and Trade Union Act of 1927 outlawed 'sympathy strikes' and other forms of industrial action. It also reduced the levy paid by the unions to the Labour Party by introducing a 'contracting in' system in which union members had to agree that part of their membership fee would go to the party (it had previously been automatically donated). Opposition to this legislation drew the Labour Party and the unions closer.