1926 United Kingdom general strike

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The 1926 General Strike in the United Kingdom was a general strike that lasted ten days, from 3 May 1926 to 13 May 1926. It was called by the General Council of the Trades Union Congress (TUC) in an unsuccessful attempt to force the British government to act to prevent wage reduction and worsening conditions for coal miners.

Contents

History

Causes of the 1926 conflict

  • The First World War: The heavy domestic use of coal in the war meant that rich seams were depleted. Britain exported less coal in the war than it would have done in peacetime, allowing other countries to fill the gap. The United States, Poland and Germany and their strong coal industries benefited in particular.[1]
  • Productivity, which was at its lowest ebb. Output per man had fallen to just 199 tonnes in 1920–4, from 247 tonnes in the four years before the war, and a peak of 310 tons in the early 1880s.[2] Total coal output had been falling since 1914.[3]
  • The fall in prices resulting from the 1925 Dawes Plan that, among other things, allowed Germany to re-enter the international coal market by exporting "free coal" to France and Italy as part of their reparations for the First World War.
  • The reintroduction of the Gold Standard in 1925 by Winston Churchill: this made the British pound too strong for effective exporting to take place from Britain, and also (because of the economic processes involved in maintaining a strong currency) raised interest rates, hurting all businesses.
  • Mine owners wanted to normalise profits even during times of economic instability — which often took the form of wage reductions for miners in their employ. Coupled with the prospect of longer working hours, the industry was thrown into disarray.

Mine owners therefore announced that their intention was to reduce miners' wages, the MFGB rejected the terms: "Not a penny off the pay, not a minute on the day." and the TUC responded to this news by promising to support the miners in their dispute. The Conservative government under Stanley Baldwin decided to intervene, declaring that they would provide a nine-month subsidy to maintain the miners' wages and that a Royal Commission under the chairmanship of Sir Herbert Samuel would look into the problems of the mining industry.

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