Miners vote in favour of one-day strikes

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The Independent Online
MINERS yesterday voted by a margin of nearly 6-4 in favour of one-day strikes, according to early returns.

The action in protest at pit closures is likely to start after 19 March when the result of strike ballots by 68,000 railway workers will be known.

Nacods, pit deputies' union, which is normally moderate, is also thought likely to come close to the two-thirds majority it requires to mount 24-hour stoppages. No mine can operate without the safety officers, who are Nacods members.

The yes vote by National Union of Mineworkers' members is the first time since 1973 that pitmen have backed a national stoppage. The 1984-85 strike went ahead without a nationwide vote.

One NUM official said last night that he was 'delighted' by the result. 'This will give Michael Heseltine (President of the Board of Trade) something to think about. It shows that miners are not going to lie down and have their tummies tickled.'

British Coal last night was still waiting to hear the official ballot results, but senior

officials have warned that customer confidence would be severely eroded by industrial action, which would serve to contract the market, rather than expand it. Ministers believe strikes could detract from public support, but union activists argue that a no vote would have given the Government greater confidence to close collieries.

Pitmen in Yorkshire, the largest coalfield with more than 18,000 NUM members, are thought to have voted by about 3-1 for action. This was the least surprising result given the field's reputation for militancy.

More encouraging for those favouring disruption were the results from other areas - yes votes are believed to have come from the Midlands and Wales. The North-east is thought to have voted heavily in favour.

Under a TUC strategy, leaders of the mining unions hope to coordinate action with rail industry colleagues to show the Labour movement's anger at government policies. Votes on action are also likely by public service unions.

The call to arms by Mr Scargill was prompted by the October announcement of 31 colliery closures. A public outcry led to a White Paper on the industry's future, publication of which has been delayed.