Battle Between Tame and Independent Unions in South Wales Coalfield

Sunday 23rd August 1936

A major dispute in the South Wales coal mines was set to escalate badly. 128,000 miners were set to give fourteen days notice of strike action. At issue was the tension between the mine owners' tame union, the Miners' Industrial Union, and the independent South Wales Miners' Federation. There was little spontaneous support for the Industrial Union but desperation had force many to join it notably at the Bedwas Colliery. Here management was accused of operating the kind of attempt to control workers and dragoon them into a captive union more familiar in the US.

The owner of Bedwas, Sir Samuel Instone, was unusual as a mine-owner in that that he had bought into the industry as an investment, rather than merely owning land on which coal was discovered. He had been an early investor in airlines He also hoped to modernize operating practices to ensure the profitability of the mine. It was joked of an earlier coal dispute by a minister that he would have thought the miners' union leaders to be the stupidest men in the country, had he not met the owners first. Instone did not fit this pattern of unthinking confrontation - he actually resigned from the Coalowners' Association -, but he remains a deeply controversial figure.


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