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85% of British Coal Miners Back in Pits

March 06, 1985|WILLIAM TUOHY | Times Staff Writer

LONDON — About 85% of Britain's 189,000 coal miners were on the job Tuesday, officially ending a yearlong strike in the mines.

But a number of militants defied a weekend vote by the National Union of Mineworkers and remained on strike, and Arthur Scargill, the union president, said he will wage a "guerrilla war" against the government's plan to close uneconomical mines and eliminate 20,000 jobs.

Even before the vote, thousands of miners had returned to work--52% of them, according to the National Coal Board, which operates the nationalized industry. But miners in some areas said they will continue to strike until the board arranges for the rehiring of more than 700 miners fired in connection with strike violence.

The orderly return to work called for by the union was disrupted as picket lines were thrown up at coal fields in Yorkshire. Scargill led a group of miners back to work at Barnsley in Yorkshire even though he had opposed the membership's decision to end the strike.

'I Don't Cross'

However, when he reached a picket line at the Barnsley mine, he turned back, saying, "I don't cross picket lines."

Later, in a television interview, Scargill said the union's campaign against closing mines will go on, adding: "Make no mistake, members will now conduct a guerrilla war against the board." He did not elaborate.

Coal board spokesman Michael Eaton said the mines will soon be operating as usual. "There is a desire to return to normality," he said, "and I think that will be the all-prevailing factor."

In the House of Commons, Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher reiterated her position that there will be no amnesty for miners convicted of "serious criminal offenses" against other miners or coal board property. She attributed the violence during the strike to the "discord created by the leadership" of the miners' union.

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