2 January 1980: National steelworkers’ strike

In 1967, the Iron and Steel Act nationalised Britain’s steelmaking industry, leading to the formation of the British Steel Corporation (BSC), with some 268,500 employees. But by the end of the 1970s, the industry was making a loss, and plans were in hand to close plants and make large scale redundancies.

Workers had been offered a pay rise of 2%. The unions wanted 20%. Talks quickly broke down. And so, for the first time in over 50 years, the steelworkers began a national strike.

The strike lasted 13 weeks and soon spread to the private sector, with ‘flying pickets’  protesting at plants around the country. After much talking, workers accepted a 16% pay rise in return for increased productivity and changes in working practices. The strike ended on 3 April.

But by the end of the year, the Consett Works in County Durham closed and steelmaking operations stopped at the Shotton works in North Wales.

Eventually, however, the restructuring bore fruit, and the BSC returned to profit. In 1988, it was privatised, and in 1999, it merged with Dutch steel producer Koninklijke Hoogovens to form Corus Group, to become the world’s third-largest steel producer.

In March 2007, Corus was taken over by India’s Tata Steel in a deal worth $13bn, and became Tata Steel Europe, with plants in Scunthorpe, Port Talbot, and Ijmuiden.

  • Ted Bishop

    As a young Bobby this was my first occasion of Picket violence. I was 19 years of age and alone at a certain site on what was peaceful picket of three Union men until a group of Union led pickets turned up and I was beaten just for being on duty, but I did
    give back more than I was hurt as I laid into my attackers with my super strong
    truncheon and a few had to go to hospital as did I for a head and back injury.
    When my backup arrived 3 mins later the pickets became peaceful and then the Union leader alleged I had just attacked 12 pickets for nothing. I’ve detested the bullying Union officials ever since.