Energy workers against Thatcherite neoliberalism. Scottish coalminers and North Sea offshore workers: revisiting the class struggle in the UK in the 1980s


1 January 2013


Volume 1 – Number 2

How to cite

Terry Brotherstone



This essay revisits two important British workers’ struggles that took place in the decade of the neoliberal Conservative governments of Margaret Thatcher: the coalminers’ strike of 1984-5 and the offshore oil workers’ industrial actions of 1989-90. Both involved energy workers, and – in the particular cases I examine – were based in Scotland. And both, in their different ways, still resonate today. This is particularly true, I argue, if the study of these events is understood as part of a critical discourse about the UK’s neoliberal project and the collapse of its triumphalist phase in the global financial crisis that began in 2007-8; and if it is inspired by the need to recover, through critique rather than uncritical celebration, the sense of practical relevance and political optimism that underpinned the development of British labour history in the 1960s.


Thatcher, Coalminers’ strike of 1984-5, Offshore oil workers’ industrial actions of 1989- 90, Scotland