miners strike for investment

Kellingley Miners
Still surviving: Kellingley miners during the great strike 20 years ago, marching in Leeds.

Kellingley Colliery at Pontefract now enters its third month of strike action as the miners respond to proposals to change shift patterns, lengthen the working day and introduce seven day working with weekly 24 hour stoppages. The miners were offered a bribe: accept the deal and 240 miners' jobs will be saved from the Selby complex which is to close in July. In fact the same proposal to extend hours and change shift patterns was originally made over two years ago, well before the decision to close Selby had been made public. The Kellingley NUM branch have responded not only with the weekly stoppages but with proposals to invest in and create a genuine second coal face, absorbing the threatened Selby men and raising productivity. Productivity has to be set in context: Kellingley in 1983 produced 46,000 tonnes of coal a week. Kellingley in 2003 produced 42,000 tonnes of coal a week but with a sixth of the original workforce!

UK Coal rejected this proposal saying, "It is a high risk option that would add £30 million to the cost of running Kellingley." There is no pretence that it is about saving 240 jobs -- the aim is solely to bolster the balance sheet. Now UK Coal is selling its 97% share in Australian Gloucester Coal for a reputed £21.5 million, with the caveat that the proceeds will be "for the future, including investment on new coal face equipment". Kellingley is the golden opportunity for them to put their money where their mouths are.