Sad Week for the Trade Union and Labour Movement
It is with great regret that we record the death of two great friends of the Miners and trade union movement in general; Bob Crow and Tony Benn.

Underground Coal Gasification
Biggest Threat Ever to Britain's Remaining Coal Reserves, David Douglass

Government agrees to pay £ 1 billion to Five Quarters UCG
Tragic news is just breaking that the government has agreed to pay £ 1 billion to Five Quarters UCG company to rape and waste the vast coal reserves of the North East coast

Obituary Mick Renwick
Mick Renwick, Trade Union activist, Wobbly, Anarcho-syndicalist, anti fascist, Internationalist, Geordie working class hero.

Ex miners to get coal or cash
Chancellor George Osborne has announced a financial boost for former pit workers during a trip to one of England's remaining deep coal mines.

What the frack?
Mention fracking these days and everyone immediately thinks of the Government’s idea of getting cheap energy by destroying the strata to release gas,

Hatfield management request voluntary redundancies,
after announcing the pit has entered a 30 day period of consultation.

Hatfield management ask for commitment.
We heard last week of a letter which had been given to the workforce at the colliery, a copy of which is attached here...

Scargill’s ring a ring a rosy, with our cash
People often ask what is our once great leader doing these days,

UK Coal to be taken over by Government administrator
Britain's biggest coal producer, UK Coal, will be placed in administration and most of its mines and pension liabilities transferred to a state-run pensions agency in a bid to save 2,000 jobs, according to a union leader and a newspaper report.

Hope not hate special supplement for Durham Miners' Gala 13 July 2013
Download pdf brochure. Published in support of the Durham Miners' Association's campaign to assure the future of the historic "Durham Big Meeting".

Durham Miners Demand Banner Back from Stadium of Light.
Dave Hopper the General Secretary of the Durham Miners' Association is writing to Sunderland Football Club to demand the return of the Wearmouth Miners' Banner, which is on permanent display in the Stadium of Light,

Burying the future
Hatfield owners bury proposed power Park beneath millions of tonnes of colliery waste.

Bulgarian coal miners rally to defend their jobs.
Over 1,500 Bulgarian miners rallied in Sofia Tuesday (March 5th 2013) to defend their jobs

More bad news for Yorkshire Mining Industry
Closure of Maltby and land slip blow to Hatfield

Follonsby Miners Lodge Banner outing
Information about the trip to the Yorkshire Main Commemoration (Edlington) in Doncaster, and also request to support the Spanish miners fight against pit closures.

The Scargill Dacha Debacle
The High Court has ruled that the membership of the National Union of Mineworkers does not have to pay for the rent and associated outgoings of the luxury Barbican flat for Arthur Scargill.

TRAX FM Adaptation of Dave Douglass' book, 'The Wheel's Still In Spin'
Trax FM (Doncaster) have started broadcasting a seven week broadcast of Dave Douglass's book

Government wastes clean coal technology development
The government’s refusal to back a clean coal project in South Yorkshire puts the country’s energy supply at risk and means jobs will be lost, claims a former mineworkers’ official.

James May: Rebel with the megaphone voice
James May: November 5 1969 - December 3 2012.

Disgraceful, Short-sighted, and Stupid.
Treasurery pulls the plug on the most efficient Clean Coal CCS Project in Europe

Justice demanded for miners’ arrested in 1984-85
MPs are being asked to sign an early day motion on the policing of the 1984-85 miners’ strike.

New and Lethal Attack on Coal Power Energy Generation
Comments on the Energy Committee’s report on power generation, given by the Tory Energy Minister on Friday 23rd November 2012

Roy Curran
It is with great sadness that we announce the death of Hatfield Trade unionist Roy Curran

Sad day for miners
The fight for compensation for damaged knees is lost

The Morning Star has come unstuck with its uncritical support for the ANC,
writes Peter Manson of The Weekly Worker

The Miners Next Step 2012- 2013
A consultative proposal for NUM national rule revision

David Guy, president of the Durham Miners Association (DMA)
Tributes and funeral arrangements for North-East miners' leader

Madrid turned out in massive numbers to welcome the miners
Half a million people were on the streets to greet the striking pitmen.

Yorkshire Area Agent / General Secretary
The story so far

Sad loss of Martin Jenkinson
Martin Jenkinson, professional photographer of the trade union and labour movement

Withdrawal of News Views and Updates, comment on:-
“NEC Elections Update” and
“Yorkshire Area Agent/ General Secretary Elect”...items.

Representatives of the Spanish Miners’ Solidarity Committee
Two to travel to Spain for discussions with Spanish miners and their families later this week

Yorkshire Area NEC elections 2012
Elections for the 2012 National Executive Committee NUM, Yorkshire Area representatives is ongoing...

Yorkshire Area lowers  members subs !
The Area Officials and NUM Council of the Yorkshire Area are to be heartily congratulated for
their decision to lower the full membership fees.

Scargill Wars….the saga continues
Discussion about rRecent reports suggesting Arthur Scargill had ‘won’ £12000 damages against the NUM for loss of expenses

Research into the events at Orgreave
David Conn, a journalist for the Guardian newspaper, is researching the events at Orgreave during the miners strike.

Durham Mining Museum
News about the Durham Mining Museum relocation and opening times

Carbon Capture, Hatfield Main and Clean Coal Technologies
Dave Douglass on the future of carbon capture

Read 'The Miners' Heritage:
A History of the Durham Aged Mineworkers' Homes by George L Atkinson MBE.

Tragic Events At Gleision Pit, South Wales
Shock and sadness after flood takes the lives of four miners.

This year's Big Meeting - Links from around the web
Links from various sites, including YouTube, concerning this year's Big Meeting.

Reports from the 2011 Big Meeting
Reports from and links to The Sunderland Echo concerning this year's Big Meeting, including the new Washington Glebe Lodge banner and a visit from Chilean miner, Carlos Bugueno.

Follonsby Miners Lodge Banner, Heritage and Community Association
The Unveiling of the Wardley Miners Banner of 1938
Sat 18 June 2011

New Jobs In Mining. New Life in Australia
Australian Coal Mining interviews to take place in July.

The Miners' Hymns
Watch an exclusive trailer for Bill Morrison's The Miners' Hymns

TAX, PENSIONS AND BENEFIT CHANGES FOR 2011-12
This is mainly copied from the CSPA newsletter with some “explanatory” notes from Julian Atkinson

Up to 70 feared dead in Colombian mine blast
Sixteen killed in what could be one of country's worst mining accidents

Striking Mexican Copper miners
Mexican copper miners embattled in a three year dispute over health and safety issues

Dave Douglass talks about 'Ghost Dancers'
Dave talks about the final part of his trilogy 'Stardust and Coaldust'

Obituary: Peter Heathfield, March 2 1929 - May 4 2010.
David Douglass celebrates his life

Announcement of death of former General Secretary of the NUM .
Peter Heathfield dies after battle with illness

Victor Lindsay
It is with sadness that we report the death of our comrade.
Vic was a long time Delegate of the Rossington Branch and a great friend and comrade of the Hatfield miners

May Day 2010
Report and video from May Day 2010 social event.

Feds Cite Operator Alpha for Mine Inundation
Feds cite operator Alpha for inundation that trapped 7 miners for nearly 24 hours

MALTBY NUM BRANCH, YORKSHIRE AREA
25th ANNIVERSARY of the MINERS STRIKE

A story of coal and conflict - Vicki Smith
From the Morning Star December 28th 2009

Pat Bennet, Hatfield Main NUM Union stalwart and Doncaster coalfield Character

Ripped Off Miners is a site that aims tohave miners' claims reviewed.

NUM National Executive Committee Elections – Yorkshire Area Aug 2009
Separating the pillock from the politics and the principles.

Worker-intellectual who fell prey to the right
David Douglass looks back at the life of Lawrence Daly: October 20 1924-May 23 2009

Launch of Dave's new book 'The Wheels Still in Spin'
Dave Douglass will be visiting his 'home' turf to mark the launch of the second part of his trilogy

 

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News Items


 

Sad Week for the Trade Union and Labour Movement

It is with great regret that we record the death of two great friends of the Miners and trade union movement in general; Bob Crow and Tony Benn. Both played mighty roles in the great strike and the later 92/3 campaign. RMT was our co union in the series of one day strikes aimed at stopping rail and mine closures, a strike movement which called for workers across industry to down tools, go on the sick or generally not turn up. 12 million days were lost on each of the days of action. Bob was the principle trade union leader in Britain heading up one of the only fighting unions left on this island.

There is no one to take either man’s place.

Tony Benn of course was a veteran left wing politician, still clinging on to the hope, the faith, that Labour would return to its core values and become the party of the working class and unions. Me and him had many a knock about over that. But tony was a politician of tremendous principle, there was much back stabling and lies and vote rigging to get him to lose the deputy leadership vote of the Labour Party. Big unions were urged to switch their votes from Tony who their members were supporting to Healy who was standing simply to block Tony’s rise to the leadership. Had he won, he would have become leader of the Labour Party during the great strike instead of Kinnock, just think of the difference that would have made.

 

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UNDERGROUND COAL GASIFICATION
Biggest Threat Ever to Britain's Remaining Coal Reserves
David Douglass


The Tories have long danced on the grave of the coal communities and the memories of the once powerful NUM, but at the back of their minds they have retained the fear that this corpse might not stay down and might one day rise again. Fears were grounded in the fact that something like 1000 years of untapped coal reserves in vast coalfields still remain. That the existing mining workforce and army of unemployed miners are still just young enough to fuel and redevelopment of the coal fields. That our sons and grandsons might follow on in our traditions in the conscious memory of our collective history. Now
they have the stake with which to drive through the corpse of the coal industry to make sure it never rises from the dead. It is called UCG.

Read the full illustrated article in this downladable pdf:

 

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Government agrees to pay £ 1 billion to Five Quarters UCG

Tragic news is just breaking that the government has agreed to pay £ 1 billion to Five Quarters UCG company to rape and waste the vast coal reserves of the North East coast. 25 billion tonnes of recoverable coal lies between the Wear and the Northumbrian/Scottish borders. The area was prime for the development of eight new super pits along the coast from Sunderland to Berwick, ensuring work for 16-20,000 miners for centuries to come. Now UK coal who holds the licence to mine this coal, has cut and run, cutting the throat of the deep mine coal industry with it, by passing the licence to Five Quarter to 'frack' or UCG the reserves. It should be noted that this same government wouldn't give the Billion£ to the Don Valley clean coal CCS project, "the best carbon reduction scheme in the world" according to the EU, but instead feeds it to this gas drilling outfit instead. Whereas coal power faces almost a 50% surcharge on its production to keep the price of coal power artificially high and subsidies wind and nuclear to make them look cheaper than they are, this scheme will be given tax exemptions and subsidies. It is also a wanton waste of the countries long term power reserves, only 4% of the total calorific values of the coal will be used, the rest will remain wrecked and useless underground. It should further be noted, coal can be extracted by conventional methods and then gassified on the surface, using all the calorific potential of the mineral. I hope everyone will write to the Energy Secretary the Shadow Energy Secretary , and all coalfield MP's to fight against this scheme. Northumberland Council who will have to approve this also should be inundated by objections calling for these vast reserves to be mined not fracked. Hopefully the NUM NEC will discuss this matter and take it up as a matter of grave urgency.

 

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Mick Renwick

Trade Union activist, Wobbly
Anarcho-syndicalist, anti fascist
Internationalist
Geordie working class hero.

I met Mick first when I just turned 14, we were in the first flush of that revolutionary generation that Bob Dylan had promised would soon shake your windows and rattle your doors , because we wanted change we were part of that huge current for change and revolution and peace which began to subvert our whole generation. Mick was in its vanguard
It was he who, sitting in the smallie wee hoors of the morning in his living room after an underage drinking session roond the toon,  had revealed the sacred Bob Dylan, Times Area A Changing LP. I had heard nothing like it in my life.  I thought those words; those concepts were addressed to me. It was in the words of the Christian revivalists a revelation. We became aware of ourselves as a world wide wave of youth rebellion intent on shaking the system till it changed its ways or died.

First up at Heaton CND then in the faction that became the Tyneside Direct Action Committee and later the Committee of 100, demonstrating up at Holy Lock on the Clyde and down on numerous Aldermaston marches against the H Bomb and Atom Bomb which had come to the very wire of nuclear war and we were convinced our premature departure from life before we had the chance to live it.

Mick was a key character in a city movement, always around, always on the scene. Sex and drugs and rock and roll and revolution that was us. Mick was ‘a lad’ right enough. As our beatnik and mod strange new wave confronted the old culture, the teds, the biker gangs still in their white socks and greased back hair we were often attacked. We represented something strange and scary, politics, beat poetry, peace campaigns?
Mick was no mean street fighter and although we aspired at first to pacifism, he was a handy lad to have around because he wouldn’t easily see his friends attacked without wading in.

Mick had been born into a unique and dying community, for his Dad wasn’t simply a Northumbrian pitman, he was a Geordie pitman, he worked at the Rising Sun Wallsend. Mick lived in back to back Heaton, miners, railway men, and shipyard workers. He was raised in the strongly militant trade union tradition of the miners union and communities.

My life has been marked by Mick presence and Mick’s comradeship; we were together at Grosvenor Square, as we tried to storm the US embassy in solidarity with the Vietnamese people. On anti fascist mobilizations and punch up’s with the NF. He was for a time the Secretary of the Gateshead Trade Union Council and organised some of the Tyneside May Day best rallies. He was shoulder to shoulder with every battle the miners had from the 70’s 80’s and 90’s. raising funds, joining pickets. He developed a deep and lasting love of Bulgarian and Greek culture and spent every spare holiday there, became a self taught expert on all aspects of Bulgarian and Greek culture and history.

Me and Mick started our political careers as Anarchists, and then took brief detours through the woody glades of Trotskyism in the 70’s Mick to the Socialist Workers Party, me to the Revolutionary Workers Party. By the time of the Miners great strike we were both headed back to Anarchism. We both became enthusiastic founder members of the Industrial Workers of the World when it re-founded in Britain and it was this organization that Mick heart and soul has worked for in the last fifteen years. He has also been an enthusiastic member of the Follonsby Miners Lodge Banner Community Heritage Association and enjoyed greatly our joint work with the local Lingey House School on the Leam Lane who are part of that project. Mick was as proud as punch to be the only ‘political’ stall to be invited to the School annual sports and gala day, where he manned the IWW stall selling badges to the children and literature to their parents.

Mick’s last fight with cancers has been his hardest, and he wouldn’t yield. He smoked and drank to the end; he paraded and demonstrated when he could scarce stand. Indeed he very nearly died at last years Durham Miners Gala, but clinging onto the railings to hold himself up he refused to take a taxi to the hospital demanding that the Cole Pits Pub was the only destination he was heading for. He went through Hell this last year. He refused to give up, always believed he’d beat this and come back.

Mick was my friend and comrade for over a half a century. We shared so much. My biggest bollocking from Mick was parking a car full of explosives outside his Gateshead house while we popped in for tea, only to find the angel cakes were laced with pot, and coupled with the broon sparked out all over the house, with the clock ticking on twenty years in jail sitting outside the front window.  We had the extreme privilege to have been teenagers in the 1960’s and to setting ourselves a benchmark for freedom, for justice whatever the law said, until in our own 60’s we still aspired to those same values, because we couldn’t live any other way. Mick was a character roond the toons Gateshead and Newcastle were his stomping grounds, he met tens of thousands of people, debated with whole cities over the bar table. People all over Tyneside knew Mick; he will be a huge loss. You were a diamond marra! I will miss you in ten thousand ways.

 

Memorial Wake

Comrade Mick Renwick

7th Dec

12 noon – 5-pm
The Black Bull
Gateshead
(Opposite the Gateshead Metro Station and Bus Station)

An invitation to Mick’s Friends and Comrades
To come and share your memories, tell a tale sing some songs have a jar.

 

 

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Ex-miners to get 'coal or cash' offer under Osborne plan

 

Chancellor George Osborne has announced a financial boost for former pit workers during a trip to one of England's remaining deep coal mines.

He said the government would guarantee 400 pit workers recently made redundant a free delivery of coal every year worth £1,300 or a £600 in cash instead.
A further 1,000 retired workers will also get help under a concessionary fuel scheme dating back to the 1980s.
Mr Osborne said he was determined to help people with rising energy bills.
The chancellor went below ground with pit staff at Thoresby colliery in Mansfield, Nottinghamshire's last remaining deep coal mine.
About 69,000 former mine workers or their families currently receive a fuel allowance from government each year under the terms of National Concessionary Fuel Scheme.
'Concessionary coal' Friday's announcement will mean that a further 1,500 former mine workers, who would otherwise have lost their benefits following the recent collapse of UK Coal, will now be brought into the scheme.
The commitment is expected to cost under £2m a year.
In July, UK Coal said that two of its companies had gone into administration following a major fire at its Daw Mill colliery in Warwickshire, which has subsequently been closed.

But the stock market-listed company announced it was setting up a new company to operate Thoresby, the Kellingley colliery in Yorkshire and six surface mines.

Mr Osborne said it was "important to support a group of people who through no fault of their own had lost out" and demonstrated the government's wish to support workers in all industries across the country.
He said he had been urged to intervene by local politicians, including Conservative MP for Sherwood Mark Spencer.
"There were ex-miners who lost the concessionary coal they were getting because the company they work for went bust," the chancellor added.
"I am determined to help those ex-miners so the government is going to step in and pay for the concessionary coal."
'Owed' But Labour MP for Bassetlaw, John Mann, who has been campaigning to save the miners' fuel allowance, said ministers had "caved" in to pressure in the face of potential legal action.
"The concessionary fuel allowance is a contractual obligation to be paid to former miners and in some cases their widows," he said. "It is not a benefit, but part of what these former miners are owed."
"My constituents now need the fuel as soon as possible so that they can heat their homes this winter."
The National Concessionary Fuel Agreements were put in place between the state-owned British Coal Corporation and the mining unions in the 1980s.
When British Coal was privatised in 1994, the government retained the obligation to provide concessionary fuel to former British Coal workers entitled to it.
The responsibility passed to UK Coal, when the company restructured its operations and changed its name in 2001

 

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What the frack?

Mention fracking these days and everyone immediately thinks of the Government’s idea of getting cheap energy by destroying the strata to release gas, regardless of the cost to the environment – today or in the future.

The fact is, ‘Frak’ was a four letter word invented for the science fiction series ‘Battlestar Galactica as long ago as 1978, as a substitute for the ‘F’ word, (in a similar way to which ‘feck’ is used in the comedy series, ‘Father Ted’).
In the ‘re-imagined’ series of Galactica the false expletive was used with much greater frequency and in a much grittier fashion. The actors interspersed their dialogue with as many fracking fracks as they could, along with other made up expleteives, such as, "felgercarb" (noun), (a euphemism for "crap"), and "golmonging", also spelled "gall-monging" (adjective), (as in ‘We'll show those golmonging Cylons how to fight now!’ ). This gave their discourse realism, and it worked really well, as shown by the present day fracking popularity of the now accepted word ‘frack’. There must be many Galactica fans who recall with a smile Starbuck struggling not to laugh when she used the word ‘motherfracker’ to Chief Petty Officer Tyrol, who was visibly taken aback and responded with, ‘motherfracker?’ whilst trying hard not to crack up.

Wikipedia tells us that since then, the usage of ‘frak’ and ‘frack’ has also appeared in other television shows, including Eureka, The Big Bang Theory, Veronica Mars, 21 Jump Street, Better Off Ted, Warehouse 13, Chuck, 30 Rock, Babylon 5, Transformers: Prime, and Castle, and it has also been used in the 2012 video game Transformers: Fall of Cybertron.

As with ‘feck’, we have a popularly used made up word with exactly the same meaning as a similar taboo word, which someone thought would be a great name for a controversial method of gas extraction. Come to think of it; it would be funnier to hear the newscasters saying, "Protesters are gathering to show their feelings about plans for fecking in the nearby countryside".

So there you fracking have it. Now frack off and tell those greedy motherfrackers that they should be investing in what’s fracking left of our fracked up coal industry instead of fracking about with the environment.

 

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Hatfield management request voluntary redundancies, after announcing the pit has entered a 30 day period of consultation.

Following from last weeks announcement that workers at Hatfield Colliery will be expected to work three hours per week without pay, they have now been informed of a meeting between colliery management and unions, regarding the mine’s future. In a notice to the workforce, B. Holland, Colliery manager, states that the mine has entered a 30 day period of consultation and that redundancies will be required to cut costs.

30 Day notice image here.

 

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Hatfield management ask for commitment.

We heard last week of a letter which had been given to the workforce at the colliery, a copy of which is attached here. Basically, the letter, signed by the colliery manager, Brian Holland, outlines the present problems at Hatfield and ends with a thinly veiled attempt at blackmail.
In the letter, Mr. Holland tells the workforce they have to work an extra three hours per week, for no pay. If they don’t show this ‘commitment’ then, the HCL Board will refuse to invest in the mine.

Surely, forcing the workforce to work without pay will only lead to resentment, rather than having the opposite and desired effect of instilling commitment to the mine’s management, but, as Mr. Holland says, his ‘message is clear’; back Hatfield, or else…

 

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Scargill’s ring a ring a rosy, with our cash

 

People often ask what is our once great leader doing these days, well from time to time and actually all too frequently he is causing merry hell in the courts by taking legal actions against the NUM. He invariably looses these cases but it doesn’t matter, so long as it throws shit at the current leadership, undermines confidence in the ability of the NUM to do its work at this crucial time, and costs us a fortune in defending the actions.

Latest one you may have seen, he was successful in having the election of Nicky Wilson the Scotland Area President’s election to national NUM president overturned. It cost us a fortune in time and money. He argues that the position which is elected from within the ranks of NEC members themselves should not require a 30% of the vote to stand, and the position should not be subject to area nominations. So Yorkshire Area as an area cant decide who we want to vote for, for National President and we should leave it up to the members of the NEC who are supposed to represent us, to do what they want themselves. OK he wins this one, the result ? Nicky Wilson was nominated by the NEC members and voted in as National President ! Big victory Arthur.

Then we come to the Area Agent position in Yorkshire, Arthur argues that Chris Kitchen who is the current Area Agent should be turfed out, ‘because he isn’t a member’ (the argument here is Chris, since he was a full time official of the union, hasn’t got a pit and therefore isn’t employed in the industry. Needless to say, being the Area Agent of the NUM is by anyone’s imagination ‘being employed in the industry’.) and because he did loose the Area election last time round. You might recall that Chris Whitehead from Maltby won it, but then decided the job didn’t pay enough and refused to accept the post. So another election is only fair since Chris Kitchen was whacked in the race. But the second part of his claim is that Thompson, widely seen as Scargill’s candidate should be appointed Area Agent instead since he was another (failed candidate) in that election. Hmm that doesn’t make a lot of sense to us Why him ? Its not clear, but that appeal isn’t going to be heard before the actual reelection takes place, with Mr. Thompson we think now from Kellingley running against Chris Kitchen for the position. Mr. Thompson has every right to challenge any position in this union he is eligible for of course, except it must be said he has never occupied even a branch position let alone an Area one and the union is in dire straights at this time and needs experienced leadership above all. But democracy is king here and members will decide, its their union after all. The members must say who should be area agent not the courts .

No doubt the industry is on the cliff edge, the latest impositions at Hatfield are more than flesh and blood should be forced to bear and as yet we don’t know the men’s reaction to being told to work extra hours without pay or the pit closes. What is sure is that this is blackmail, and I think we know the problem with blackmailers is, you cant pay them off, they will keep coming back for more and more. A meeting with company is pending, and we believe a mass meeting of the Hatfield branch.

We also note that the last of the pits in wales are now closed or ‘mothballed’.

 

 

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UK Coal to be taken over by Government administrator

Britain's biggest coal producer, UK Coal, will be placed in administration and most of its mines and pension liabilities transferred to a state-run pensions agency in a bid to save 2,000 jobs, according to a union leader and a newspaper report.

The British coal industry has struggled to break even in recent years because of rising costs, hefty pension liabilities and competition from cheap imports from Colombia and the United States. (Dave Douglass comments, that actually coal from Colombia is massively more expensive to produce than British coal but recieves a hefty government subsidy which British coal does not. US coal largely from open cast sites is being 'dumped' below production and export costs because sales in the domestic US market have crashed after a boom in natural and shale gas )

More on this story here:
http://uk.reuters.com/article/2013/07/01/uk-britain-coal-rescue-idUKBRE9600VW20130701

 

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Hope not hate special supplement for Durham Miners' Gala 13 July 2013

Published in support of the Durham Miners' Association's campaign to assure the future of the historic "Durham Big Meeting".

HnH-2013-05-06-miners-supp.pdf

Providing a positive antidote to hate and intolerance
Proud to support the Durham Miners' Gala
www.hopenothate.org.uk

 

 

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Durham Miners Demand Banner Back from Stadium of Light.

Dave Hopper the General Secretary of the Durham Miners' Association is writing to Sunderland Football Club to demand the return of the Wearmouth Miners' Banner, which is on permanent display in the Stadium of Light, in protest at the decision to appoint the self-confessed fascist, Paolo Di Canio, as their head coach.

Mr Hopper, who worked for 27 years as a miner at Wearmouth Colliery, the site on which the Stadium of Light now stands, described Di Canio's appointment as an outrage and a betrayal of all those who fought and died fighting fascism.

He said,"I like many thousands of miners have supported Sunderland from infancy and are passionate about football. But, there are principles which are much more important.

"Our banner represents the Durham miners' long struggle for the rights of the working class, rights which were annihilated by fascism in Germany, Italy, Spain and Chile.

"We have a sacred obligation to the millions who were wiped out by Hitler, Mussolini and Franco to oppose fascism wherever and in whatever context this evil creed raises its head particularly at a time when working people are again being forced to pay for capitalism's crisis as they were in Europe in the 1920s and 30s.  "The appointment of Di Canio is a disgrace and a betrayal of all who fought and died in the fight against fascism.

"Everyone must speak out an oppose this outrage and call on Ellis Short and the Sunderland Board to reverse their decision."

 

 

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Burying the future
Hatfield owners bury proposed power Park beneath millions of tonnes of colliery waste.

Over the last few years Hatfield has managed to struggle on, despite the lack of funding or Government backing of the plan to build a new coal fired power station using the latest carbon capture technology. Roads had been created to incorporate a new entrance to the site from Waggons Way at the west end of East Lane. A roundabout had been built, with roads leading to the old entrance, the new entrance, the colliery itself, and a stub of a road designed to lead to a proposed flyover which would cross the railway and join the M18 motorway at Junction 5. Several areas had been designated and prepared for buildings, including the site of the proposed power station. All that was required was the investment, which failed to materialise.


(Click images for larger size)

In February 2013, the land around the colliery became heavily waterlogged after another wet winter and the soaking received the previous summer. This led to an unexpected movement of the main spoil heap which lay to the East of the mine. The land around the spoil heap was pushed by the weight of the mountain of colliery tailings. This caused a major problem when the embankment supporting the nearby railway was shoved several yards away from its previously straight course, resulting in millions of pounds worth of damage and causing the connection between Doncaster and the East coast to be closed for what could be several months.

In March 2013 the decision was made to remove waste from the main spoil heap and relocate it to another part of the site – that previously designated for the Power Park. It is believed that the colliery management negotiated an arrangement with Waystone, the company now in control of said land, and who had previously presented plans for the Power Park and an adjoining marina on land to the north of the colliery. With this decision the planned Power Park is now obviously no longer an option, although to be fair, the lack of funding over the previous years had already sealed its fate before it had a chance to succeed.

At this moment the future of Hatfield Colliery looks bleaker than at any time since its closure in 2004. With the Government refusing to back the proposed plan for a clean coal fired power station and the world’s most intuitive plan for carbon capture the colliery’s future was already looking dim.  When the earth movement has been cleared and the railway line is once more open questions will no doubt be asked about the cost of the operation. With the mine struggling to find investment and with only one coal face operational the coming days promise to be dark indeed.

 

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Bulgarian coal miners rally to defend their jobs.

 

Over 1,500 Bulgarian miners rallied in Sofia Tuesday (March 5th 2013) to defend their jobs, following the announcement that coal-fired plants would be temporarily shut down due to low electricity consumption and exports. The protest, organised by the country's two main trade unions KNSB and Podkrepa, added to the snowballing public discontent over high electricity bills and growing poverty and corruption that toppled the right-wing government two weeks ago. "We are here to defend our jobs. We want work! We want bread for our children!" the chief of Podkrepa's mining federation Vladimir Topalov said at the rally.

Full story here:
http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/afp/130305/bulgarian-coal-miners-rally-defend-their-jobs

 

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More Bad News for Yorkshire Coal Industry
March 2013

Following on the decision to close Maltby Colliery in Rotherham, Hatfield Main, the last Doncaster pit and now the last of two remaining Yorkshire pits is hit by another serious body blow. Proving the observation by Buddha "a wasp will also sting a crying face" the pit tip is now said to be responsible for closing the main Doncaster to Hull rail line including all local services to and from Doncaster and shutting down Hatfield-Stainforth station. Photos shown to us by rail track workers show severely twisted and bent rail lines for a considerable distance past the colliery tip. We aren't sure if the waste has literally spilled onto the lines or something more exotic in the form of earth displacement causing the rails to rise and buckle, but the effect on passenger and freight services on this busy line is total. Damages and repairs could run to £100, million! This is on top of the decision to stop all development and drivages until the face (THE face) is operating profitably again. The decision to pull the plug on the country's most efficient and futuristic Clean Coal Power Station at Hatfield was the final kick in the bollocks by the government and leaves the whole prospect reeling and on the ropes. When we consider how close this whole massive complex of pit, clean coal power station, energy park etc came to a secure profitable well paid, unionized, job providing reality it would make a grown man weep and doubtless quite a few people are. Nobody is giving up yet, but if there are any breaks out there, now would be a good time for one to show up.

 

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First thing, sign this spanish peitition against spanish pit closures and in support of the spanish miners.

Support Spanish Miners against pit closures

 

Second thing to remind you all we are taking the Follonsby Miners Lodge Banner to the Yorkshire Main Commemoration (Edlington) in Doncaster to take part in their day and march. This is the 9th March, I will be borrowing the NUM mini-bus, and picking you up, my pick'ups so far are South Shields (I presume Louise and Alan are still coming) and Newcastle Central Station just beside the bus stops to the left of the entrance if your facing the crossing at the station side. I will be picking up at 7-30 am from my house on Osborne Ave, South Shields, and 8 am from the Central. Trev if you can tell me where on route you want collecting I'll call. Let me know everyone who is coming. Because Im driving I cant have  sodden drink down there of course, but if its OK with people, I can drop off on the way back for Trev, and if its OK with everyone, South Shields, then Ill park the vehicle and come for  a drink in the evening in Shields with anyone who fancies it. I can drop off at Heworth or White Mare pool for the newcastle crew to jump on the metro, or bus, or come back for a drink with me and make your way back from Shields on the metro when your done. Or I can go via Newcastle on the way back if you must. But let me know whose all gaan. By the way I am the guest speaker, along with Caroline Flint MP deputy Energy Minister so someone fancies a joke.

Dave

 

 

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The Scargill Dacha Debacle

            David John Douglass

            At  last the High Court has ruled that the long suffering minute membership of the National Union of Mineworkers does not in fact have to pay for the rent and associated outgoings of the luxury Barbican flat in London  for Arthur Scargill the former president. This item alone had absorbed the entire membership fees of the whole union and then some for a number of recent years. It has been a long and disgusting episode which has soured still further the once unblemished reputation of King Arthur and by association the whole union.

            The existence of this luxury flat was for many years denied. We were told it was a savage rumour. Later when its existence could no longer be denied I for one had been told we didn’t pay for it, it was loaned to ‘the union’ by Ken Livingstone as a war bunker during the strike, a secret command post in the centre of London. Still the stories persisted until the newly incoming General Secretary Chris Kitchen decided to find out once and for all where all the union’s money went, and what exactly we were paying for as this had been by no means clear. A lot of activity in the union higher echelons had been on a nod and wink basis and this applied to far too many financial transactions, official requests at conference for open transparency was condemned from the platform as treachery and joining in the press assassination of Arthur and Peter (Heathfield). There was also a gut feeling that a man like Arthur Scargill of granite principle and communist values would never money grub or join any gravy trains.

            So how did the case end up? Scargill had argued that all the previous NUM presidents had had houses bought for them to live in and that these houses had all been in London. That the rules allowed the President to occupy this house even after retirement and be retained for the use of any widow in the event of death, at either a very low rent or by buying it at a knocked down price. Context is of course key here. This was a necessity from the time when the NUM Head Quarters was based in London next to those of the NCB. It was also at a time when the officials and their families lived in London and had given up their family home in the coalfields.

            Scargill during the spell when the NUM still resided in London was given use of the Barbican flat which was near the old NUM HQ. He did not however take up full time residency here, nor did he intend to move his family from Barnsley where the family home was. Arthur argued that the use of the flat was a life time obligation on the union. The judge rejected this claim as nowhere in any contract or agreement or NEC meeting was this ever stated. It was not in his original contract of employment. In fact the Yorkshire Area of the NUM was paying his mortgage on his Yorkshire residence. It was known Arthur had campaigned to move the NUM HQ out of London and back to the coalfields, and the national office would be coming to Yorkshire. Which is what happened.

            During the great strike, the Union agreed to buy Arthur’s house in Yorkshire (in case he was personally sequestrated and then evicted from the property, (which would have been a great propaganda humiliation for him and the union). Arthur then continues to live in that house, and the union agreed this would remain his family home. Just after the strike, he makes the decision to buy a luxury detached house in Barnsley; ‘Treelands’. He has the money from the previous sale, he also highly controversially has an interest free loan from The International Miners Fund, which was set up to support striking miners and their families and to which the Soviet miners union had send massive donations from Russian miners levy’s to support their comrades in Britain. It is this issue which the press grabs hold of and splashes all over the front pages and the TV in a charge that Scargill had pocketed the money for starving miners kids and used it to buy a large ranch. Arthur in fact repaid the load at a higher than average rate of interest but that didn’t take the nasty smell away. Miners lived in properties of £15,000 at that time, and a number of men had lost their homes in that long and bitter strike through failed mortgage payments and mounting debt. This luxury detached house was bought just six months after the end of the strike by the national president who had led the dispute.

During the period between 1985 and 1991 the NUM did not in fact pay anything toward the Barbican flat.

Arthur argues that the NUM nationally still owed him a house, but that he would forgo this long established right if the they will rent him the Barbican flat again, for the rest of his days and those of any wife he might have. I say ‘argues’ in fact it was a conclusion he came to him himself and the NEC wasn’t consulted. The judge ruled without the NEC approval (or even knowledge) this arrangement wasn’t lawful. Instead of proposing this arrangement to NEC and conference, he then goes and gets legal advice as to whether he can get the flat paid for by the union. Even this ‘advice’ however didn’t ask whether this arrangement would continue into retirement and beyond the grave. He then goes to the Finance Department of the NUM and instructs them to start paying for the Barbican flat. He then has contracts drawn up in 1992 1999 and 2002 which state the NUM must pay for the flat up and to and after his retirement and death if there is a widow. He and Ann have by now broke up and divorced. He has arranged for legal advice which confirms this is all OK. However in the judge’s words that ‘legal advice’ ought to have been “arms-length” and not as had happened purely on his own initiative and control. The ‘advice’ was provided entirely on the information he provided and not a full picture and in any case had no authority to assume the powers of the NEC to actually make the decisions.  None of this was ever disclosed to the NEC or conference, and therefore was not lawful and the Union has no obligation to honour it. Without knowledge or agreement of the NEC the union funds were used to pay the rent on the Barbican flat since 1992. The issue was first disclosed officially to the NEC in 2008 and 2009 and the NEC did not agree to the contract or approve any retrospective contact.

So at last this issue anyway appears to have been put to bed. There is still to be a second part of the judgment on financial matters, i.e. will it have to be paid back? It certainly should, and God knows Arthur has enough of a war chest to pay for it though how exactly that little treasure trove accumulated is another tangled web we will doubtless never bottom out.

The whole thing is tragically sad; Arthur was a legend, a working class hero, who was inspirational and magnetic. His leadership of the NUM during the strike although not faultless was principled and brave. None of us in the miners union take any joy in having to drag all this stuff through bourgeois courts and air dirty linen in public let alone see a man’s character and contribution tarnished in this way, but we should perhaps remember it was Arthur who initiated proceedings against the union for non compliance with what he claims was his contract. All of this seems a long, long way from walking on water as the rank and file at one time believed he could.
           

 

 

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TRAX FM Adaptation of Dave Douglass' book, 'The Wheel's Still In Spin'

Trax FM (Doncaster) have started broadcasting a seven week broadcast of Dave Douglass's book The Wheel's Still In Spin, (Part two of his trilogy Stardust and Coaldust) it has Dave read from his own work, about pit life in Donie, and Hatfield Main in particular, it also has some (toned down) versions of the sex n drugs which is rabid in the book version. The revolution part is still turned up full though, as is the great selection of music which illustrates the spoken pieces. It runs Tues and Thurs at midnight...started on Xmas evening Tues 26th and judging by the number of phone calls congratulating him on the piece at one am, it must have hit a spot in the small wee hoors. The next one is going out tonight (Thursday) at midnight, though I am told you can pick up the ones you've missed on podcast, though I have not the slightest idea what that means. The chapters are self supporting so don't worry if you missed the first two.
 
Jon Kelly from Trax who produced this, and his team of trainee radio presenters who edited it are to be congratulated, as are
Trax for having the bottle to put it out. Make sure you phone in and tell them your listening, and ask them to repeat it.
Meantime, the book itself can be had in all its uncensored and untoned down rudeness and raw politics from
djdouglass@hotmail.co.uk for the seasonal price of £14 including the postage and package.

 

 

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Government wastes clean coal technology development

The government’s refusal to back a clean coal project in South Yorkshire puts the country’s energy supply at risk and means jobs will be lost, claims a former mineworkers’ official.

At Hatfield Power Station, the company 2CO Energy was planning a carbon capture and storage (CCS) project. The race is on to commercialise CCS technology as it could help drastically cut CO2 emissions from burning fossil fuels.

2CO’s project at Hatfield, near Doncaster, would involve constructing a large underground pipeline to transport CO2 emissions out into the North Sea, where scientists believe it could be buried safely. 2CO had been granted £160 million from the EU and was earmarked for a further £250 million grant next year after it was chosen as the best scheme in Europe.

But in October the government announced it would not provide UK funding for the £1 billion project and would be backing four cheaper CCS schemes that are less advanced. It also said it will allow energy companies to increase their charges by £100 annually to fund renewable energy.

Dave Douglass, former National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) branch secretary at Hatfield Main Colliery, near Doncaster – which supplies coal to the nearby power station – said: “The government is driving a stake through the heart of the coal energy industry and killing off the last serious net energy supply.

 

For the full document please see Mark Metcalf's blog:
http://writemark.blogspot.co.uk/2012/12/government-wastes-clean-coal-technology.html

 

 

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James May: Rebel with the megaphone voice

James May: November 5 1969 - December 3 2012.

I knew James throughout his life. He was born during the same year I joined the Young Communist League. I soon got to know his parents, Tom and Rosemary May, who were both active members of the Communist Party. James was the eldest of three (he had a sister, Harriet, and a brother, Oliver, as well as a half-brother, Matthew Johnson). If memory serves me right, he was named after James Connolly, the great Scottish-Irish revolutionary socialist (Harriet after Harry Pollitt and Oliver after the Lord Protector himself).
The May household in Luton’s Lewsey Farm was gloriously chaotic, full of children, trade union militants, political work and almost permanent debate. That was the background in which James grew up and, hence, it was no surprise that he became a member of the YCL in 1983.
However, as mapped out in the pages of The Leninist, by this time ‘official communism’ was in terminal decline. The Eurocommunists around Marxism Today dominated the CPGB and YCL. But a bitter factional war broke out when they attempted to take over the Morning Star and downgrade trade union work in favour of the ghastly politics that eventually morphed into New Labour.
Showing the cowardly mindset of the Eurocommunists and their bureaucratic allies, objections were raised to James being allowed to join. Even at the age of 14 he was a revolutionary and already spoke with a megaphone voice. His dress sense was equally outrageous (and enduring). James identified with punk and its ‘fuck off’, anti-establishment attitudes. Someone, therefore, that Eurocommunists, wishy-washy feminists and dull reformists instinctively disliked.
James gravitated towards The Leninist faction of the CPGB. Undoubtedly, what attracted him was not the finer points of our theoretical outlook. No, it was our unashamed revolutionary politics, our vitriolic hatred of the Eurocommunists and the withering criticism meted out to the Morning Star, Straight Left, New Communist Party, Communist Liaison and the other ‘official communist’ factions. That and, perhaps, our attitude towards the Soviet Union. Where without exception the ‘official communists’ lauded Mikhail Gorbachev, our paper called for a political revolution and working class democracy.
I vividly remember James holding aloft the big red banner we paraded outside the final congress of the ‘official’ CPGB in 1991. “Communism lives” and “Provisional Central Committee of the CPGB”, it defiantly read. The Eurocommunists were intent on abandoning the CPGB name and changing themselves into the Democratic Left (formally dissolved in 1999). We were intent on reclaiming the CPGB name and building a genuine Marxist party.
Naturally, James attended many of our meetings, including one of our schools in the Mediterranean (it might have been on Corfu). He was though, he confided, unhappy, frustrated and looking around for a new political terrain. Frankly, I encouraged him. Life is too short to devote oneself to a political project that does not challenge you, stretch you and fulfil you. When, later, he told me that he was going to join the anarchistic Class War group, I actually thought he was doing the right thing … and told him so. Not only could he potentially grow politically; he was moving away from the considerable shadow cast by his father.
James and myself often came across each other over the subsequent years. On demonstrations, of course; at Community University sometimes; bumping into each other in Camden Town - me usually shopping, him usually heading off to a punk gig or a drink with mates; and on social occasions too. I attended his wedding. And James never stopped reading our paper. He contributed to the letters pages under the name of John Walsh (but under more exotic names on occasion).
In Class War James seems to have made a real impact. It is easy to understand why. Tall, striking blonde hair (sometimes spiked up into a mohican) and, more than that, he had a pretty well worked out set of politics … in a milieu noted for its woeful philistinism this made him different.
He quickly earned the nickname, ‘Captain Bollocks’. Never slow to make his opinions known in the bluntest terms - eg, “That’s a load of …” - James loathed the so-called political correctness of middle class radicals and the reformist left. And, whatever you thought about what James was saying, you knew that he meant it. Doubtless this won him enemies, but it also won him many friends.
Against those who wanted to close down Class War he united with those determined to maintain it. James insisted that Class War should be Class War ... and those who did not like it should leave. There was a bitter split between the London and Leeds wings of the organisation. And it was the Londoners who were responsible for editing the relaunched Class War. James, however, was no writer: he suffered from dyslexia. Nevertheless, many of his ideas, along with his vicious sense of humour, found their way into its pages.
Class War was an easy sell on the streets and on demonstrations. The organisation and the paper benefited from being something of a media cliché in the 1980s. But the project never got anywhere. Class War always remaining a tiny sect, amongst many rival tiny sects.
Being a free spirit, James was ready to try a new orientation. He was one of the few, if not the only comrade, from that background to become involved in the Socialist Alliance (in the late 1990s it united six of Britain’s leftwing organisations, including the Socialist Workers Party, Socialist Party in England and Wales, Alliance for Workers’ Liberty and the CPGB). Because of James and other Luton oppositionists, I got invited to speak to the Luton branch of the SA. The SWP were there in force … and deeply uncomfortable with the rough and tumble of debate with those to their left. I remember James giving them a ear-bashing over their moralistic attempt to get Bernard Manning banned.
James variously worked as a milkman, a post office driver and for meals on wheels, as well as caring full-time for Lillith Scarlett and Harry Spartacus, his two children. Though he never held down a job for long, he decided to take a place at Northampton University in order to become a junior school teacher. He focused in particular on mathematics, a field he found almost effortless. James got a 2.1 degree - a fantastic achievement, especially if you consider his dyslexia.
I always thought that James would make a brilliant teacher. When you saw him with his two kids, it was clear that he would have been an inspirational and much loved figure. But with his refusal to hold his tongue, his fruity language, his contempt for political correctness, it was never going to be. He failed his assessment, which basically finished any thoughts of a career in education.
Over the last two or three years James became depressively ill. Often he behaved in an utterly irrational fashion too. He was still under treatment when he committed suicide.
Without James the world has become a greyer place.
 
James May- Remembered by John Bridge
 
The funeral is on Tuesday December 18 at 1.45pm: Luton Crematorium, The Vale, Butterfield Green, Stopsley, Luton LU2 8DD. A wake will be held at The Moat House, Moat Lane, Luton LU3 1UU.
 
Dave Douglass adds:
 
James was a friend and close personal comrade of mine, after the split with the Leeds etal liquidationists, South Yorkshire Class War, which had emerged during the great miners strike of 84/85 took the side of London. Me and James were somewhat of the revolutionary Marxist faction of that wing . James was a giant of fun and dedication and nothing used to get him down. I hadnt known until I read the above article that he had killed himself. What a bloody shocking waste of a great life and a man who was himself larger than life. I last seen him during the 'black block' mini riot during last years TUC one day strike and mass London protest. I was with a more sedate group ambling along, when the huge rush of bodies in black masks rolled by like a huge joyous wave, in among the front ranks was the unmistakable combats and blond hair of James who anyway, pulled down his mask to shout 'halloo Dave!' and rushed off down as banks and government building got trashed. I devote a few pages to some of our adventures in Ghost Dancers when the New Communist Party of all people decided to exclude us from sitting on the Lions during a big anti war march....it was all the funnier given that James could have easily skedaddled all the hords of ancient Stalinism had he so pleased, and instead we chose to man the front of the column and greet the marchers as they entered the square with two huge class war banners.  James  will be greatly missed, my heart is very heavy at the news. I cant get to the funeral at this notice, but my spirit will be there.

 

 

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Disgraceful, Short-sighted, and Stupid.
Treasurery pulls the plug on the most efficient Clean Coal
CCS Project in Europe

Dave Douglass

The long waited ‘Energy Bill’ is now ready to go before the house, some of its wickedly anti-working class features we have already mentioned, the added £100 per household energy tax , ON TOP of the ever rising energy bills which are planned to rise to an average of £1400 per year, to name but one. This, a regressive tax, meaning it hits the poorest the hardest, the poorer you are the bigger percentage of your income you will be paying. All the current price hikes’ and tax increases are to pay for the governments ‘clean energy programme’. But the greatest kick in the teeth of all for the poverty wracked coal communities, not a penny of the fund will go to Europe’s most efficient clean coal power project based at Hatfield Main colliery. Despite winning half a billion from the EU for the project, despite wining hundreds of millions in private funding, despite the science that proves this plant and others like it would cut almost at a stroke the world’s Carbon emissions the Treasurery decided it will not input funding to match Europe’s.  This means it will almost certainly fail. If it fails have no doubt the world has failed. There is no “British Air” we will not provide clean air over the island by killing coal power here, especially while the rest of the world is expanding its own. There will be no net reduction in world CO2 emissions by covering every last green space and mountainside, moor and seascape with industrial wind turbines. The only way to rapidly reduce CO2 emissions is to introduce efficient Clean Coal and CCS systems. The Hatfield Project was the world’s most efficient, removing near enough 90% of all CO2 emissions. This technology is in a prime position for export to major coal producers and consumers who will not otherwise be reducing their coal burn. The decision is almost certainly political, and aimed at stopping any resurrection of the deep mine British coal industry. How? Because the application of this technology to coal fired production would at once take away the ‘fossil fuel levy’ which accounts for 50% of everyone’s energy bill. This would mean all coal power generation using this system could be as highly profitable to the generators as it is today, but would be 50% cheaper to the consumer. There would be a dash to coal, away from gas, away from nuclear, and given a choice, away from ridiculously cost ineffective and environmentally destructive industrial wind turbines. Coal would be highly sought after and British coal on the doorstep, always the cheapest production costed in the world would be in hyper demand leading to wholesale reinvestment in British deep mined coal. There might too be a rush to unrestrained open cast, but that could be tightly regulated and fixed to a proportion of deep mined capacity. 

One might expect that the remaining miners MP’s and MP’s in mining and former mining constituencies would start to lobby for an amendment to the forthcoming Energy Bill, demanding funding of the Hatfield CCS Project. Ed Miliband's own constituency includes that of Hatfield Main where the plant was to be based. But so far the silence from him as a constituency MP never mind in drafting a Labour Amendment is so far deafening. Caroline Flint Shadow Energy Minister, whose constituency is also in a former Doncaster mining area, is also yet to make any public announcement on the dropping of the Clean Coal Project though she seemed to broadly welcome plans to levy another £100 per family for wind turbines and nuclear. I hope she proves us wrong on this and we can expect a joint front bench Labour statement soon on this and a campaign to win a Clean Coal Amendment to the forthcoming Energy Bill.

Can we urge everyone to lobby MPs and Labour in particular, for a Clean Coal Amendment to the forthcoming Energy Bill to grant match funding with Europe for this most futuristic and practical project?

 

 

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Justice demanded for miners’ arrested in 1984-85

Justice demanded for miners’ arrested in 1984-85
MPs are being asked to sign an early day motion on the policing of the 1984-85 miners’ strike.  
Wansbeck MP Ian Lavery, a former President of the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM), tabled the motion after South Yorkshire Police (SYP) referred themselves to Independent Police Complaints Commission after a BBC documentary alleged that some of the police involved in prosecutions at the Orgreave Coke Plant near Rotherham had colluded when they wrote their statements. 
Miners had gathered in force at Orgreave on June 18 1984 with the intention of blockading the plant.  Unlike many pickets in the year-long dispute the strikers were escorted to a field nearby, which was flanked by police officers on all sides.  In the battle that followed, 95 pickets were arrested and charged with riot and unlawful assembly. 
Courts subsequently dismissed the charges after one PC reported that 15 colleagues had their statements dictated to them by two detectives. Later SYP paid £425,000 compensation to 39 pickets in an out of court settlement.
No police officer was reported to have been disciplined for fabricating evidence or the assaults on miners, a good number of which were caught on camera.
Michael Mansfield QC, who represented three acquitted miners, described the evidence given by SYP as “the biggest frame-up ever.” 
Nevertheless, the Battle of Orgreave was set to be a historical note if not for the work of that quite brilliant journalist, David Conn, who in April this year used the 23rd anniversary of the Hillsborough football disaster to highlight the connections with the two events.
This spurred former miners and supporters, like myself, to get organised and the Orgreave Truth and Justice Campaign (OTJC) has been established and is demanding a public inquiry into the actions of the police at Orgreave. Members of the public are being asked to sign an epetition seeking truth and justice for all miners victimised by the police at Orgreave on June 18th 1984. (see http://epetitions.direct.gov.uk/petitions/41844 
The campaign has been backed by the Hillsborough Justice Campaign (HJC), who in September finally had confirmed what they had been saying for many years, including that many junior police officers had their statements doctored to remove criticism of police operations. The cover up extended to police trying to blame Liverpool fans, 96 of whom lost their lives at Sheffield Wednesday’s ground in April 1989.  
HJC spokeswoman, Sheila Coleman, said: “SYP is the common denominator that unites Orgreave and Hillsborough. At the inquests in Sheffield senior police officers referred to the crowd on the day of the disaster in relation to the policing of the miners’ strike. Indeed their experience of the miners’ strike was used as a positive indicator of their ability to police large crowds. 
“Liverpool people supported the miners and their families during their courageous fight in the 1980s. In the same spirit of solidarity, HJC extends its support to the Orgreave justice campaigners. 
The corrupt policing of working-class communities under Thatcher must be rigourously investigated and truthfully recorded in order for justice to be served.”
At the time of going to print, 38 MPs had signed the edm. None are Conservative

Mark Metcalf.

 

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New and Lethal Attack on Coal Power Energy Generation

The Energy Committee’s report on power generation, given by the Tory Energy Minister on Friday 23rd November 2012, doesn’t so much ‘drive a final nail’ in the coffin of the coal energy industry, as drive a stake through its heart. The so called ‘green’ tax on coal generated power, which otherwise would be by far the cheapest form of energy generation, is to increase four fold over the next eight years. This brings the total tax on coal power to over £9 billion per year and will certainly kill off the vital coal generators and any prospects for saving the seven or eight deep coal mines we have left, let alone inspire anyone to develop the old ones or drive new ones. The  tax taken from coal power stations and added directly onto every persons power bills will be to fund new nuclear power stations and pay for the hopelessly unproductive non cost effective wind turbines destroying the countries last open spaces and places of unspoilt natural beauty. Coal power stations are destined to close hand over fist in the next few years. Every single consumer will be paying about £100 per year on their energy bill which already is over 50% more expensive than it needs to be as a direct result of subsidizing wind turbines. This announcement, absolutely catastrophic in every conceivable way, will have two effects, both occurring very rapidly. One, masses of people and particularly the very old and young and poorest in society already living in fuel poverty and mortal fear of turning on the heating, will die . Two, business’s particularly the last vestiges of heavy industry and manufacture will close or relocate to countries which do not have such a short sighted suicidal (and murderous) policy. Alcan in Northumberland the last aluminum producer in Britain and Northumberland’s last big employer up stakes recently for this reason, and Tartar’s decision to close down steel capacity and shed hundreds of jobs in South Wales was announced this week for the same reason. This is simply the start. Nuclear power is NOT a safe viable alternative to coal, especially clean coal power generation, no-one wants to invest in Nuclear, and nobody has, because previously the Government declared it would have to be self supporting, i.e. NO SUBSIDIES, well other than the blank Cheque for decommissioning and storing nuclear waste until someone in a million years time thinks of what to do with it. Now the government is taking the money directly from our pockets and banks straight into the power generators pockets to pay for the nuclear stations which can never ever pay for themselves nuclear power generation at last count was 180 times more expensive than coal power stations. It will also take years upon years to develop new nuclear stations and years upon years to bring them on stream without a disaster. Meantime of course, uranium is running out as world demand, caused by the green lobby is driving up demand but reserves are drying up. The cost can only escalate still further, and Britain will be forced to start taking in the world’s nuclear waste in order to recycle it, but then be stuck with mountains of toxic radioactive waste. The third consequence is that wind power, which is being handed questions of life and death for our energy dependency and upon which the lives and the structure of the countries power grid will depend, cannot meet the demand. If we were to cover the entire island with the useless pointless objects if the wind doesn’t blow, or it blows too hard, they cannot and do not work. The government is literally gambling that the wind will always ‘blow somewhere’ and this ‘somewhere’ will supply enough power for everyone. Truth is wind power cannot supply base load which is essential to keep the lights on, the heat on, and the life support structures and hospitals schools, etc running. A deep freeze this winter, with little wind will see power cuts nationwide, the only thing which will stave this off is the old coal power stations which the government intends to close wholesale.

So what has been the response of Shadow Energy Minister, Caroline Flint? Support of course, she asks on Saturday 24th Nov 2012, Question time, “what’s an added £100 per year for clean energy?” Well nothing at all if the tax payer is paying your expenses and you live on a lush Shadow Cabinet Members MP’s salary, what’s a few more hundred dead pensioners and new born children here and there either? The truth is the anti coal dogma is reaching manic proportions and the mad are seriously running the asylum. Clean coal power generation, using the 1000 years of coal beneath our feet, employing the tens of thousands of unemployed youth and men on the scrap heap in the coalfields, generating income and work for everyone, driving down the cost of steel and manufacture could redevelop manufacture and heavy industry. Certainly, wholesale insulation needs applying, certainly a switch from oil to electricity. Certainly development of solar panels on every domestic and industrial building on the island, all of these measures work, but they will only work in phased integrated fuel and energy policy with clean coal. So far, none of the major political parties even mention coal, coal has been purged from their vocabulary. Its time we reminded them that we haven’t forgotten and its still there as are the miners. I would expect to see a huge reaction by tax payers and consumers to this wanton act of fuel tyranny quite unprecedented in any country world wide. Do we expect Mr. Milliband to lead such a protest and refuse to allow this measure to go through? Not if we take Ms Flint’s comments and reaction as a guide on the contrary don’t be surprised if they don’t demand more tax and a bigger levy. With ‘Labour’ like this who needs bloody Tories? Write in to the Energy Minister, Houses of Parliament, Palace of Westminster, London, and protest long and hard.

 

 

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WE RECORD THE DEATH OF OUR COMRADE AND FELLOW HATFIELD MAIN MINER
ROY CURRAN.

Roy was a highly popular and long standing member of the NUM branch committee, from a family which was deeply embedded in the culture of the miners and the miners union. Both the branch and the band.  Roy was active on the picket lines of all the big strikes since 1969 as well a numerous branch and face rag ups and solidarity actions. We believe the funeral is on 31st Oct, please check locally for details. We understand the Branch banner will be attendance with many members of the NUM turning out.  Roy will be greatly missed by his family and friends and comrades. He and his family have been bedrocks of trade unionism in this community and dedicated their lives to the service of their workmates and neighbours.

 

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A Sad Day For Miners!

We LOOSE the bet’ knee case.

 

We’ve just heard the worse news possible for tens of thousands of crippled miners; we have lost our long running claim against the former NCB for common law compensation for damaged knees. Tens of thousands of miners all over the country were waiting for justice after having been crippled by years of work on their knees in thin seams.

By two judgments to one, the High Court ruled, not that the men weren’t crippled, not that the NCB didn’t cripple them, but that the claims had been taken too late. The men should have claimed while they were working, even though osteo-arthritis the main complaint wasn’t a recognized industrial injury then. Ordinary miners were supposed to not only know that their ever declining agility and knackered knees were due to work, which of course they did, but that they could claim for the damages. At that time, perhaps the Union wasn’t as bold enough in its concept of HOW to claim.
The problem was always one of blame, how could we say the NCB were negligent, the seam height was the seam height, we were coal miners, these were the seams we worked in. By the time we figured out how to pitch a claim, we were too late, or so say the High Court with no doubt loads of kicking under the table by cash starved government who would have been left to pick up a bill for millions.

The claim has cost key areas of the union, millions. In the case of the North East who stumped up the bulk of the funds, £1-7 million. The blow will cause extreme hardship for the North East area, and for Scotland and Wales who also paid in lesser amounts, but enough of their funds to be left with great administrative hardship as a result.

It is surely incumbent of Areas like Yorkshire who didn’t input any money, to now come and make a large donation to the damaged areas funds?  Yorkshire members would have ridden through with their claims on the back of a victory, so the area should consider helping to soften the blow for the North East in particular who have taken the biggest hit.

Is this the end of the line? An Appeal to the House of Lords is theoretically possible but would cost £7/8 million, so it’s probably the time to draw a very sorry line underneath this.

The case was right to have been brought, these funds exist to help mineworkers and retired mineworkers, the areas which brought forward the claim are to be saluted for their bravery and dedication. A sad day indeed.

 

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The Morning Star has come unstuck with its uncritical support for the ANC, writes Peter Manson of The Weekly Worker.

The police massacre of 34 striking miners in South Africa on August 16 has left the Morning Star’s Communist Party of Britain highly embarrassed at having to defend the appalling apologetics of its South African Communist Party ally.
Let us be clear: what happened in Marikana was cold-blooded murder. Police penned in, tear-gassed and then gunned down workers who had gathered for ongoing protests - as they were attempting to flee. It seems indisputable that many were shot in the back. Sporadic shooting continued for half an hour, as police on horseback or in helicopters hunted down individuals desperately trying to get away. At least a dozen were picked off in this way, some as they were trying to surrender.
Survivors tell of being hunted down by officers yelling, “Ja, you cop killers, you cop killers. You are in the shit. We are going to kill you here.”1 The police were seeking vengeance for the deaths of two of their colleagues, who were among the 10 people killed in violent incidents over the previous few weeks. The South African Broadcasting Company (SABC) televised an interview with a police spokesperson the day before the massacre, who stated categorically that the “illegal protests” would be ended the next day. She did not elaborate on how that would happen, but made it very clear that ruthless measures were to be undertaken.
The strikers were, of course, members or supporters of a newly formed breakaway from one of the country’s most important trade unions, the National Union of Mineworkers. Those who flocked to join the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (Amcu) were evidently dissatisfied by the apparent inability of the NUM to win a substantial rise in their poverty wages and improvements in their working conditions. The NUM, led by SACP members, is a key affiliate of the Congress of South African Trade Unions (Cosatu), which, along with the SACP itself, forms the tripartite alliance in support of the ruling African National Congress.
There is footage readily available - not least the news coverage provided by Al Jazeera - showing the moment the police opened fire. Contrary to official reports, the strikers were not attacking the police, but attempting to escape. The footage shows the workers moving from right to left, in a direction that is at right angles to police lines. However, the version shown by the SABC - and, incidentally, both the BBC and ITV too - omitted the first few seconds of the footage that includes the workers in the background, showing only the police opening fire and being ordered to stop shooting.
The reaction of the SACP and Cosatu was abhorrent, confirming yet again that they are totally subservient to the bourgeois ANC. President Jacob Zuma expressed profound regret at the loss of life and announced the setting up of an enquiry - the standard means of ruling classes everywhere of deflecting criticism and riding out a crisis. Cosatu president Sidumo Dlamini said: “We will refuse to play the blame game and we will patiently await the outcomes of the judicial commission of enquiry.” The idea that we should refuse to “blame” those who murdered members of our class engaged in struggle is truly nauseating.
For its part, the SACP leadership could not bring itself to make any statement at all for three whole days. But the SACP North West region did issue a statement the day after the massacre, headlined: “Arrest Mathunjwa and Steve Kholekile” - the two leaders of the Amcu breakaway. It began: “The SACP NW joins all South Africans in mourning and passing our deep condolences to all mineworkers killed in the platinum mines in Rustenburg as the result of anarchic, violent intimidation, murder of workers and NUM shop stewards.” It referred to “this barbaric act coordinated and deliberately organised by Amcu leader Mr Mathunjwa and Steve Kholekile, who both are former NUM members expelled because of anarchy.”
No, you have not misread the statement. These ‘comrades’ are stating that only Amcu is culpable for the deaths (not that they want to “play the blame game”, of course) - as though Mathunjwa and Kholekile had shot dead their own members.
After the first meeting of its new central committee on August 19, the SACP leadership eventually got round to issuing a statement “expressing condolences to all those who have lost family members and colleagues” and “our well wishes to those who have been injured, workers and police”. It too welcomed the announcement of a commission of inquiry and urged it to “consider the pattern of violence associated with the pseudo-trade union, Amcu”.
Clearly for the SACP and Cosatu the shooting dead of 34 workers and wounding of scores of others pales into insignificance when compared to the crime of splitting from the NUM and leading workers away from SACP influence. Of course, it is very rarely correct to walk away from one union - however, rightwing, corrupt and incompetent its leaders - in order to set up a rival. The fight must be fought within existing bodies. But, at the end of the day, Amcu is a working class body, not a tool of the class enemy, as the SACP and Cosatu pretend.
Then there is this disgraceful sentence from the central committee: “SACP members from the area confirm newspaper reports today that the armed workers who gathered on the hill were misled into believing they would be invulnerable to police bullets because they had used [the ‘herbal medicine’] intelezi …”
These could be the words of an apartheid-era racist - it is disturbing enough that such stories can still be spread by the press, let alone by so-called workers’ leaders. No doubt some of the strikers believe in ‘tribal remedies’, but does the SACP seriously believe that they considered themselves “invulnerable to police bullets”? Why then were they trying to escape those bullets? But the SACP wants us to believe that these workers, who were indeed carrying traditional spears and sticks, left the police with no choice but to open fire in self-defence.
One notorious SACP hack, Dominic Tweedie, went much further - no doubt to the extreme displeasure of the party leadership. He is quoted by rightwing journalist RW Johnson as saying: “This was no massacre: this was a battle. The police used their weapons in exactly the way they were supposed to. That’s what they have them for. The people they shot didn’t look like workers to me. We should be happy. The police were admirable.”2
Tweedie has since said that he was “misquoted”, but refuses to explain how these words came to appear in a web article. My experience of him as the moderator of several SACP-influenced internet discussion lists tells me that he is more than capable of coming out with such shocking language - and the quoted words are certainly reminiscent of Tweedie’s style of written expression.

Uncritical

True to form, the reaction of the Morning Star was to uncritically adopt the line of its ‘official communist’ allies. The day after the massacre, its report was headlined: “NUM: rival union ‘may have planned’ mine violence”. It read: “National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) secretary general Frans Baleni … blamed the unrest on the rival Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union making promises which could never be delivered and, in the process, organising an illegal action which led to the loss of lives.”3
However, by the time it came to write an editorial on the subject three days later, the Star seemed to realise that perhaps it was stretching things a bit to place the entire blame on Amcu. In a piece titled ‘Hard questions for SA police’, editor Richard Bagley stated: “There can never be justification for a massacre of striking workers and it is essential that the committee of enquiry set up by Jacob Zuma to examine the tragic events at Marikana makes this a central conclusion.” It went on: “The South African Police Service must explain why its officers were armed with automatic weapons when an order was issued last year banning the use even of rubber bullets during public protests.”
But then the editorial goes on to slate Amcu in terms the SACP would be proud of. It noted that the NUM “accuses one company, BHP Billiton, of initially funding the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union … whose recruitment efforts across the platinum industry have common features. These include systematic violence, extravagant demands - such as a near trebling of pay at Marikana - and collaboration from the mining companies.”
It concludes: “None of this excuses police commanders of their responsibility for arming their officers to the hilt and ordering them to open fire with automatic rifles. But it should give some people pause for thought before they repeat erroneous allegations that NUM is a sell-out union or that president Zuma ordered the slaughter.”4
So at one and the same time Amcu demands the “trebling of pay” and enjoys “collaboration from the mining companies”. Don’t you think you’ve got your lines crossed there, comrades? But why does the Star consider such pay demands “extravagant”?
For a taste of the lifestyle of the Lonmin workers (monthly pay: 4,200 rands, or just over £300), I can do no better than to quote the South African online newspaper, the Daily Maverick: “The workers gathered at Marikana live in shacks they have built for themselves, or rent from shacklords. Their tin rooms lack insulation, water, toilets or electricity. Others live in the hostel compounds the mine provides. Callers to a radio show told a Lonmin spokesperson that the hostels are squalid and not even waterproof. Indeed, from the outside one can see the roofs are rusted through.
“The miners in the shacks choose not to invest in their Marikana dwellings. They want to use the majority of their earnings to support their families back home, whether in the Eastern Cape, Lesotho or Mozambique. They know their time at the mines will not be long - they age quickly, mostly from silicosis and other dust-related diseases that enfeeble these once strong men. They live and work under conditions of grave institutional violence.”5
But we cannot contemplate their pay being increased to £900 a month, can we? If that happened some of them might even be able to move out of their shacks and perhaps take their families just above the poverty line.
As for the NUM being a “sell-out union”, its leadership, like those of all unions in all countries, naturally tends towards compromise. Its bureaucracy has its own separate interests which do not coincide with those of the membership. In South Africa this contradiction is complicated by the domination of the SACP, which tries to balance the rival interests of workers and bureaucrats with those of the capitalist state.
What about the allegation that “president Zuma ordered the slaughter”? We cannot know the exact details of communications between police and government, and it is highly improbable that Zuma would have wanted such a bloody outcome. But it also seems unlikely that he would have been completely ignorant of police tactics and decisions - including the decision to arm its elite force so lethally. We can also say that he is hardly rushing to bring the killers in uniform and their commanders to book.

Blame the victims

All this was evident even to some loyal Star readers, a couple of whom voiced their discontent at the paper’s coverage of the story. One letter-writer said he was “dismayed and disappointed at the lack of outrage shown”.6 But “lack of outrage” continued to be a feature - for example, when the authorities arrested hundreds of miners (those who were still alive, of course), and threatened to charge them with the deaths of their own comrades!
If ever there was a cause for “outrage”, here it was. But the Star slipped this piece of vital information halfway down a report headlined: “Miners stay away, as crisis talks continue”. It told readers: “But the prospects for peace were not enhanced when it emerged that, under the South African legal system’s doctrine of ‘common purpose’, all 270 workers detained after the police massacred 34 miners would be tried for murder.”7
The following day, however, the Star was forced to change its tune in view of the “outraged” reaction by the general secretary of the NUM in Britain, Chris Kitchen, who asked: “How can you be charged with murder when running for your life? It’s deplorable.”8 The paper also reported the reaction of South African justice minister Jeff Radebe to the decision of the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) to charge the miners. Under the constitution the justice minister - ie, himself - “must exercise final responsibility over the prosecuting authority” and so he had asked the NPA for an “explanation of the rationale behind such a decision”.9
Both the SACP and Cosatu quickly came out against the proposed murder charges and so the Star was able to criticise the decision too. But note the mealy-mouthed terms of that criticism from justice minister Radebe - his main concern seemed to be that correct procedures had not been adhered to, although he also opposed the actual decision to press charges (it goes without saying that the Star did not inform its readers that Radebe is a member of the SACP central committee). Cosatu spokesperson Patrick Craven also opposed the decision on technical grounds: the NPA “should have waited for the findings of the judicial commission of enquiry … before jumping the gun and laying such charges”.
In the face of such powerful opposition from within the alliance, the decision to charge the miners was quickly reversed. But not before many of them were subject to brutal mistreatment amounting to torture at the hands of the police. Neither the SACP, Cosatu nor the Morning Star have called for charges to be pressed against the actual perpetrators of the killings - both individual police officers and those who ordered them to shoot.
The Star’s line reminds me of its fawning attitude to those who ruled the roost in the former Soviet Union and eastern Europe. When the Polish ‘communist’ authorities gunned down more than 40 workers in Gdynia in 1970, British ‘official communists’, while regretting the ‘tragedy’ and criticising the ‘mistakes’ of the Polish United Workers Party, remained loyal to its comrades in high office.
And that is the way it is today when it comes to the SACP - some ‘solidarity’. Instead of following every twist and turn of the class-collaborationist SACP leadership, the Star and its CPB should demand an immediate ending of the cross-class alliance and the adoption by the SACP and Cosatu of independent working class policies. Unless this happens, Cosatu unions will continue to lose ground to rival breakaways and more workers will look for solutions in the politics of black nationalism.


peter.manson@weeklyworker.org.uk

 

Notes

1. http://dailymaverick.co.za/article/2012-09-10-marikana-murders-the-world-now-believes.
2 . www.politicsweb.co.za/politicsweb/view/politicsweb/en/page72308?oid=320136&sn=Marketingweb+detail&pid=90389.
3. Morning Star August 17.
4. Morning Star August 20.
5. http://dailymaverick.co.za/article/2012-09-10-marikana-murders-the-world-now-believes.
6. Morning Star August 24.
7. Morning Star August 31.
8. Morning Star September 1-2.
9. Ibid.

 

 

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The Miners Next Step 2012- 2013
A consultative proposal for NUM national rule revision

The following is the proposed Rule Changes which we in the miners advice service would like to offer to the NUM for consideration. We are not of course in a position to advance these rule changes ourselves and we would hope branches and areas, who have all been circulated with copies of the proposals,  would put these forward as their own proposals when the rule change conference is called. They are both urgent and on target to address all the recent causes of protest, legal action and complaint within the union over the years. Certainly the branches who have led the fight  for change and the members who have supported them, ought to be pushing these rule changes as they meet and address all of those concerns.
 
Every member should be able to approach their area or branch for a copy of these proposals as they all have been circulated, and we know received, since at least FIVE areas wrote into the NEC and National Office to ask about the status of these proposals. At present these are simply for discussion and debate, we hope they will become the new rules. All  three Yorkshire Area pits have been sent copies of the rule change proposals, call and ask for a copy.
 
The only objections we have had so far are those around the terms of tenure for national officials. We propose two years between elections, it is said this is too short. We don't agree, the national union membership today is something equivalent to the average NUM branch and lodge prior to 93, and all branch officials came up for election again every two years. Relection doesn't mean you can only serve two years, if the members think you are doing a good job they will vote you in again, term after term, if they are not satisfied they will vote you out, that's democracy. Dave Douglass was first elected as a branch official, in 1980, he ran every two years for office and was re-elected time after time until until 2004 when the branch closed (it reopened some time later along with the pit as we know) the same could happen to a national official position.
 
It has also been said the proposal that a National Secretary being voted out should return to work at the pit is unrealistic, we don't agree and this could be written into the NUM / Company union recognition agreement as Union Leave of Absence. We also don't know, as none of the companies have been asked yet. We consider that a reasonable spell of absence, say six years during which the non elected official could return to work underground, might well have agreement from mine companies. The purpose of these rules is not to give a life long career to union officials, but to serve the members. Obviously we need to give reasonable terms to whoever is national secretary but a job for life isn't practical or reasonable and regular periodic election is the essence of a democratic union such as ours.
 

we comend these proposals to the miners.

 

 

The Miners Next Step
2012- 2013

 

A consultative proposal for NUM national rule revision

 

David Douglass

 

What do we want the rules to do?

Rules do things, they force the union to be a particular entity and go in particular directions, they are the satnav of the organization. The reason why rules are so important, and why they are so hotly fought over, is because members of the union with a particular direction in mind, and course they want the union to go on, draft them in order to steer the organization in that direction. Sometimes rules will be obscure and the ordinary pit moggie won’t realise what they do until the course of the organization starts to change and we move in direction we really hadn’t wanted to go.  For this reason rules need to be transparent, we need to discuss what they intend to do and why, and whose interest are they being drafted in?

It would be indulgent of me to start going on about how we got in the chaotic state were in with the union, in a sense that doesn’t matter, we all know where we are and we didn’t set off to arrive here. We need to change and change radically.

Broadly speaking this union has been too Leader orientated too much power too much influence and too many resources have been lodged in the hands of our leaders. Not enough in the hands of the rank and file, the man at the pick point, the bloke underground or working on the surface. Too many decisions have been taken from our hands, too many decisions made without reference to us, or explanation of what’s gaan on.

So the direction these rule change proposals are seeking to take us is back toward rank and file and branch control of the union, and away from leaderships and offices.  Needless to say we need union officials, at pit, area and national level, but we don’t need to bow in their company or pay them gold pigs or give them either position or salary for extended periods. These rules will seek to change all of that.

(Subsequent to any adoption of these rule change proposals, it ought to go without saying that the index and page numeration will have to be changed accordingly.)
 Where not otherwise mentioned rules not subject to alteration amendment or addendum will stand as they currently are.
                                   
For the Adoption of the proposals in this document Rule Revision conference would have to set aside the normal Rule 8b which restricts and inhibits the overall revision of all of the rules. The rule revision conference must allow for a total and comprehensive revision of the entire rule book.  I am submitting this consultation document to branches and area’s in the hope you will study it carefully and propose these proposals to any forthcoming national rules revision conference. Should you wish to invite me to discuss the proposals at your Branch or Area or Executive body I would be more than pleased to do so. It would be very helpful to have these proposals circulated widely among the membership and ensure that the members are aware of any branch meetings and area meetings convened to discuss proposed rule changes, so that they can advance the ideas and proposals within this document.

Rule change proposals to Rules; Model Rules;
Standing Orders. 2nd Nov 2011.

(Preamble.
 Bi annual conference. 
The proposal here will be to revert to annual conference.
The decision to adopt bi-annual conferences was vexed and contentious and accepted in controversial circumstances.

The longer the gap between conferences, which is the governing body of the Union, the longer the period the NEC rules in its stead. This is not a desirable situation. Conferences are very short, no longer costly and provide for time for open discussions among delegates on the nationwide situation and issues in the industry and union. We would hope if this (forthcoming) proposal is accepted a clear and open session for this would be set aside at future conferences.

THE CONFERENCE OF DELEGATES

Proposal: beginning with rule 8a all references to bi-annual conference throughout the rules be amended to annual conference.

Delete second paragraph in rule 8.A. and all other redundant paragraphs related to bi annual conference.  The words ‘bi-annual conference’ be replaced with the words ‘annual conference’ throughout the rules.

Rule 8.G. delete the existing rule and replace with

“Each area shall be entitled to appoint one delegate per mine, and workplace branch, as well as one per constituent body or Area”.

Rule 8.k. Delete the last thirteen words, beginning ‘The Secretary’ and ending
‘The Yorkshire Area Secretary’.

 

 NEC Preamble.

The composition of and rule pertaining to the election of NEC members have been highly vexed over the years resulting in court cases, and proceedings before the Industrial Tribunals etc. Charges have centered on the inability of branches to achieve what they consider is a fair representation, believing that alliances of branches can form pacts to outvote them or otherwise stop them having a voice on the NEC. Without comment on the validity or otherwise of such charges the current situation is clearly not as representative or democratic as it could be and the following proposals can quite easily resolve the issue.

Proposal

NATIONAL EXECUTIVE COMMITTEE

            Delete all in (9.A clause (iv) and replace with
Representative members shall be elected on the basis of one per mine or workplace, elected by pit or workplace branch ballot at the time of branch elections. Area offices and constituent bodies with a full time officer(s) shall be entitled to one representative member elected from among that/those full time officer(s) by Area Council or Executive body.

            Delete rule 9.e.

Addend rule 9.F. on the third line to include the words ‘branch or’ and read
‘elected by the membership of the appropriate branch or area…’

National Officials- Preamble

The last reported membership figures at the bi-annual conference of 2012
stated we had a national membership of 1855, a figure something approximate to a single NUM branch in the Doncaster coalfield in 1983 with an equal number of pensioners and dependants. A branch like this would have a secretary who might work five days for the branch and the community, with perhaps a day each out of the pit for the delegate, treasurer and president to assist on a Friday.  In a national union of our size, we certainly do not need nor desire three full time officials in the national office.  A paid full time secretary elected by the membership at large and paid from the membership at large through contributions is as much as we need.
The other national officials that is the national president or chair, and the vice chair, should indeed be paid any loss of earnings as a result of not being able to attend their normal work, but should not be full time paid national officials of the union.
They should in other words be ‘lay’ officials. ‘Lay’ in this context means of the general membership, not full time paid national officials (they may well be full time paid Area officials or not depending on who was elected).

A very firm democratic union principle with regard to paid officials is, whoever pays him, elects him. So if we have a full time paid branch official, the branch membership elect him, a full time Area official, the members of the area elect him, likewise any full time paid national official must be elected by the national membership by ballot vote. It would be utterly wrong to have officials paid by the subscriptions of the members but denied a vote on who that was, this is especially so if the NEC was to remain less than fully democratic and in a situation in which conferences remained bi-annual. ‘He who pays the piper calls the tune’ or as the American independence revolutionaries put it, ‘no taxation without representation’.

Proposal

NATIONAL OFFICIALS

Rule 10a amendment, remove the word ‘secretary’ from the last sentence, leaving the sentence as: - “The President and vice president shall be lay National Officials”

Addendum. Add

The National Secretary shall be a salaried post, based upon the principle that the salary shall be no more than the average wage of workers in the mining industry at the time of their election. The National Secretary shall additionally claim all expenditure incurred carrying out his duties. The sitting National Secretary at the time of the adoption of these rules shall serve out the term of office agreed at the time of his appointment, and thereafter the position shall be subject to bi-annual election of the national membership by individual national ballot.

The union shall seek to arrange for all candidates nominated for the post of National Secretary an agreement from their employers to re-engage the candidate should he  be elected National Secretary and subsequently loose his position in a future election. The assurances or otherwise from such employers would inform the choices of candidates in considering whether to appear on the ballot paper or not.

10. C addendum.

Delete full stop at end of sentence, replace with comer, and add:-
but the total payment to the National Secretary from both incomes shall not exceed that of the average wage of the workers in the industry.

 

 

14. ELECTION OF NATIONAL OFFICIALS

14. A
Addendum. At the end of the last word ‘Legislation’

In the case of the President and Vice President these shall be elected by the NEC candidates and can be drawn from among the NEC itself, or from the membership at large from full time or retired members (retired members in this context are those members who were paying full dues at the time of their normal retirement age,) and be proposed by an NEC member and selected by majority vote of the NEC.

Both of these positions shall be lay, i.e. unpaid positions, other than for re-imbursement of loss of earnings and expenses occurred in carrying out the duties of the position.

The National Secretary shall be elected by a national ballot vote of the membership and be subject to bi-annual election. (the sitting National Secretary shall serve out his term in accordance with the agreement when he took office, but thereafter this rule to apply.)

14. B
 Delete
The words “five years” in the last line
Replace with the words “Two years”.

14. C.
Delete
The word “Area” at the beginning of the sentence
and replace with “NEC Member”

Delete
The word ‘Shall’ in the first line and replace with ‘can’.

Delete the position “National Secretary” from this paragraph and this process (since this is subject to separate national ballot and nomination arrangements in accordance with the preceding proposal).

Delete all after the existing mention of ‘National Secretary’ in the existing rule which reads “providing that such” and right through to the end of the paragraph as this no longer would apply.

14. D.
President
(ii) Delete the words “five years” and replace with “two years”.

14. E.
Vice President
Delete “elected by areas” in the second line and replace with
Elected in accordance with rule.
Delete the reference to Bi Annual conference.
And replace with
Shall hold office for a term of two years and be subject to re-election.
Delete all after the words “until the conclusion” to the end of the paragraph as no longer applicable.

14.F.
Secretary
(i)
Delete the words “lay”
Add the word ‘National’ before the second mention of ‘secretary’ on the first line
Delete the words “every five years”
Add the words “every two years”
(ii) Delete the words “Five years” and
Add “two years”

Addendum to the end of (ii)

The secretary’s salary will accord with the principle of not exceeding the average wage in the industry, plus actual incurred expenses.
This principle to apply after the termination of the sitting Secretaries contract and period of office. In the event of the sitting secretary being re-elected these new terms to apply.

15. Removal of National Officials

15.A.
Addendum
At the very beginning of the sentence add, “Other than by periodic election”
Add a comer
Delete the capital letter and replace with low case “a”

15 .C.

Delete all after
“Government” and
Add a full stop.

20. ELECTION AND REMOVAL OF AREA OFFICIALS/AGENTS
20.A. 
Delete, at the bottom of the paragraph
“nominations of Branches” and replace with
“The nomination of a branch”

Delete all after the existing word “Branches” beginning “the total” to the end of the paragraph.

20.B.

Delete all after the end of sentence
“People Act 1918” to the end of the paragraph.

20.C.
Delete the words “Five Years” in the first line and replace with
“two years”
Addendum to end of paragraph

In the case of full time salaried positions at Area or National Level the union shall seek to negotiate as part of its recognition agreements, suspension of employment agreements with the candidates employers. This to secure agreement that in the event of successful candidates subsequently loosing their position they are allowed to return to their former employment without loss of continuity.

20. F.
Delete all after “Government” beginning “unless” to the end of the paragraph.

21.  AREA OFFICIALS /AGENTS SALARIES

21.A
Addendum
At the end of the paragraph
Delete full stop replace with comer and add
subject to amendment and variation by conference decision alone. Ad-hoc, discretionary adjustments to salary without the knowledge or approval of conference, whether agreed by the President or the Trustees will no longer be permitted. The terms of the salary can only be advanced by recommendation or resolution to conference.

21.C.
Following the word “fund” delete “The NEC” and replace with the words
“Conference”.

 

23. TRUSTEES
 Beginning at 23.A.  and continuing through 23.B. delete all references to ‘biennial’ and replace with ‘annual’.

25. INDUSTRIAL ACTION

25.B
Delete

‘no other body or individual’ in the first line
And replace with:

Conference and/or the NEC shall…etc

25.C.

Delete ‘The NEC’  on the first line
And replace with ‘Conference’

 29. DISCIPLINARY PROCEDURE

29.C.

Addendum
After “..this Rule shall be a member of it..”
Add

(Except as proscribed in Rule 29.H following)

 

29. I

Addition of two clauses

(iii) Any member subject to an appeal or charge before the Disciplinary
Committee shall have the right to disclosure of all relivant documents, charges, and evidence in possession of the Committee. ‘Confidential’ materials and undisclosed evidence or witnesses cannot be considered by the committee as this risks being Ultra Vires and in breach of ‘Natural Justice’ and requirements of judicial procedure.

(iv) Any member subject to appeal or charge before the Disciplinary Committee shall the right to representation before that committee by a person of their choice.

 

29. U
Delete
Existing sub rule and replace with

 There shall be a final appeal from National Appeals Committee to National Conference whose decision will be final and binding on all parties.

 

ARREARS OF CONTRIBUTIONS

6.
Addendum to last paragraph
First line
Following ‘on strike’
Add
Or engaged in a struggle against pit or workplace closure which is still ongoing, at the discretion….etc

 9. APPOINTMENT OF DELEGATES

Delete ‘twenty five’ and replace with Twenty,
Delete “from time to time” and replace with ‘bi-annually elected by pit head or workplace ballot’.
Add, at the end of the first Para ending with the word “Council”.
In the case of small mines with less than 20 workers, all small mines in a similar region be grouped into a single branch or Lodge with the right to elect a delegate.
In the case of an isolated small mine with less than 20 workers, providing 60% of the workforce are members of the union they shall be allowed to appoint a delegate to Council, and at discretion of the NEC an observer on the NEC.

In the final paragraph, delete twenty five and replace with twenty.

Delete the word “shall” in the first line of the final Para and replace with
“can” and add at the end of the line after the new words
“branches is under twenty”
Add
and in a declining workforce. Where a large or growing workforce exists with the potential of increasing membership the branch or Lodge be encouraged to continue.

  1. LODGE OR BRANCH GENERAL MEETINGS

Delete full stop at the end of the last line and add comer, and add

It shall be the duty of the Secretary to ensure all members are regularly informed of the time and place of their branch meetings and especially any changes of regular venue, time or day.

STANDING ORDERS

8
Delete the word ‘only’ on the third line
Delete the words ‘at least three fourths of those at the meeting’ and
Add
Conference

 

I respectfully submit these draft proposals for rule changes for discussion, debate and consultation, they seek to address and resolve all the recent causes of complaint , legal action and grievance which has soured relations in this union over the last two decades. With the adoption of rule changes such as these, we should be left with a fully democratic, union based upon the members and their branches, with sensible rates of remuneration for officials, accountable terms of office and democratic recall.

The acceptance of these rules would lay the groundwork to expand this union once more, about a third of the remaining deep mine coal miners in Britain are not in any Union, and this is due in part to the ongoing internecine warfare which has raged within this union and kept our eye off the ball. The Union crucially needs a programme for recruitment, at deep mines, shallow mines and open cast, as well as the expanding Potash and other mineral mines operating around the country. Likewise the new development of Clean Coal Power Stations such as the planned one for Hatfield, open up the opportunity for recruitment of Clean Coal power workers into the NUM.

We desperately need to become a campaigning union again, pledged to the improvement of terms and conditions for our members and fighting for an expanded deep mined coal industry.

If anyone wishes to contact me to discuss the proposals in this document I am available on 07596503360 or djdouglass@hotmail.co.uk

 

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TRIBUTE has been paid to a North-East miners’ leader who has lost his long battle against cancer.

David Guy, president of the Durham Miners Association (DMA), died in Newcastle’s RVI  last night (Wednesday July 25)  aged 66.

He was president of the association for 27 years and as compensation secretary helped many miners win thousands of pounds in compensation for problems such as pneumoconiosis and vibration white finger.

He helped save the Durham Miners’ Gala from extinction in the early 1990s and build it into what is now the country’s biggest trade union event.

Last month’s Big Meeting, which was the first addressed by a Labour leader since the 1980s, was the first one he had missed during his presidency. The DMA’s general secretary, Dave Hopper, said his colleague’s condition had deteriorated after undergoing surgery.

"He has been ill for nearly five years. He was given only weeks to live, really, but he has done miraculously well and fought all the way.

"He had a new scheme of cancer treatment, experimental, that gave him some quality of life, but over the last period he has had very little quality of life and has really been suffering."

He left school at 15 and worked at Dawdon Colliery where he was NUM lodge treasurer before being elected as an area official in 1985.

He served on the national executive committee, was a representative on the northern TUC, and chairman of the North-East’s Coal Industry Social Welfare Organisation Mr Hopper said: "It was a pleasure to work with him all those years. He was committed to the membership and the union.

"We went through very traumatic times and he was also responsible with myself for making the Gala survive, which has been a major achievement.

"In his role as compensation secretary he accomplished a lot over many years."

Former Redcar MP Vera Baird QC, who is Labour candidate for Police and Crime Commissioner for the Northumbria police area, nd is an honorary member of the DMA, said he would be badly missed.

She said: "I have known Davy for over 30 years. I met him when I was defending miners during the strike and saw his utter commitment to his members and their families and to the heritage of that proud industry. "Many times he came to court just to give a member confidence that though he faced a criminal charge he was not alone. "Thousands will mourn him and our thoughts are with his family today." Mr Guy, who lived in Seaham . was married and leaves a grown-up daughter and son.

Philip Blakey, secertary of the Durham Mining Communities Banner Association, said: "He was a fantastic man and he will be sorely missed.

"He was a tireless worker for the mining communities and he was always very personable to everyone."

http://www.thenorthernecho.co.uk/news/9840161.Miners__leader_who_saved_the_Gala_loses_brave_fight_against_cancer/

 

The details of David's funeral are as follows. Please pass on to any contacts:
10 a.m. on Thursday 2nd August at St Mary Magdalen, Harbour Walk, Seaham Harbour, SR7 7DS
Family and friends are welcome afterwards at Dawdon Miners Welfare, Mount Stewart Street, Seaham, SR7 7NA

 

Dave Douglass adds:

"I am heartbroken. Dave was a close friend and comrade of mine, he was loyal and could always be relied upon to support any and every event I ever put together. We shared so many platforms on so many issues and agreed on all but details about the problems that confronted us. Davies style of debate and argument was unique, he turned things over slowly and systematically like a man digging his garden, his style was so calm and relentless building a force of fact and logical progression, his honesty shone through in every sentence he made. People perhaps do not realise what an impact he and Davie Hopper had on the whole movement, they swung an entire NUM area from the dotage of moderation into a militant and vibrant campaigning area again. They swung that area behind the 84/5 strike and kept it solidly behind the strike for twelve months. Their impact on the North East Area was legendary. They brought fresh air and vigour to a  region which had almost given up and brought it marching back to claim its battle honours and place in history . Dave was quite the most transparent and honest and nicest man in the NUM, he was neither cowed by threat nor charmed by guile. I don't think Dave had an enemy in the world, though not everyone treated him with the respect he so richly deserved, though now isn't perhaps the time to repeat those arguments. Dave's fight with cancer was awe inspiring, he simply refused to let it dictate the terms on which he lived and intervened into life. The treatments Dave was receiving were horrendous , painful and draining, yet he stood his corner and always believed he could beat this. Last year I was speaking at Sunderland University on the 84/5 strike to a crowded audience of students Dave had promised to attend to back me up if I needed it, he came in five minutes late, what I hadnt realised was he had  come straight from hours of punishing chemotherapy and God knows what else, his jaw set his face drained, he made a promise and even though it was such an unimportant event and such a small commitment he turned up, true as his word. It sounds silly mentioning it, but I think it marked out what sort of a brave and dedicated man he was.  I know he was going through hell, and I confessed I didn't think I would have the bottle to do it, he assured me I would "for them granbairns Dave you would, and I will". He fought for every added day he enjoyed, he turned out on platforms and political events when other lesser men would have laid abed. Dave was a bliddy hero, I shall miss him dearly."

 

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Madrid 10th July 2012

Last night, Madrid turned out in massive numbers to welcome the miners who had marched from the northern coalfields of Aragon Leon and Asturias. Half a million people were on the streets to greet the striking pitmen. I was never on such an emotional demonstration or heard such deafening chanting as the miners, lamps lit, marched through the densely packed streets of central Madrid. Today, a further, smaller demonstration of about 100,000, including the miners, attempted to march. Just after it reached Real Madrid´s stadium, all hell was let loose as police violently attacked the front of the march leaving, among others a ten-year-old girl, with bloody head wounds and battering miners and other trade unionists around the head and legs. When the police appeared to be making ready with tear gas, panic ensued and they drove the demonstrators away from the final rally point. Essentially, they smashed up a democratic workers'demonstration for no other reason than blind revenge for last night when the streets belonged to the miners and the working class.

Miners_list@listen.jpberlin.de

https://listen.jpberlin.de/mailman/listinfo/miners_list

 

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Yorkshire Area Agent / General Secretary

The story so far

Finally were starting to poke out what the technical policy problems are here, the political internal faction fighting ones are more difficult to describe. Let’s stick to the problem so perceived.

Firstly, and contrary to our earlier understanding, the Secretaries salary is subject to negotiation. It seems we have a rule book, which conference, that is you and I and the members ought to determine. It doesn’t always work like that of course, because Mr. Scargill wrote the last rule book and then by hook and by crook  imposed it on the union, were still suffering from the aftermath of that. Also of course that rule book introduced him as ‘honorary president’ while abolishing the elected national president position. The national ‘chair’ as he was then called, was to be elected from the NEC by the NEC themselves and in theory be an unpaid position. The position of General Secretary was also abolished as a nationally elected position which we can all vote on, and was again replaced by a Secretary Elected from the NEC by the NEC and again in theory be unpaid. In reality what happened was both these officials could then appeal to some other higher authority, in reality Arthur and argue for a salary paid on their existing job salary. So for example, the Agent Secretary in Yorkshire negotiated a payment in respect for his national position on top of his salary for being the Yorkshire General Secretary. He was also able to negotiate an increase on his Yorkshire Area salary. It is likely the ‘lay’ president also did the same thing. So these extra increases and extra salaries were negotiable and seem to have depended on who got the job and who decided whether they should be paid extra or not.

After Steve Kemp was unelected and Chris Kitchen was elected into Agent/ general secretary of Yorkshire and National secretary, he did the same thing, this time with the approval of the Trustees and the NEC. The salary at that time was officially £48,997 but because this was less than he earned at the pit he was allowed to negotiate an increase.

Now we come to the current elections and Chris Kitchen is unelected (as Agent and Yorkshire Area Secretary- he is however still National Secretary by vote of the NEC which has voted to retain him. They have also agreed a salary for him to do this job.) Clint Whitehead is elected Agent/ General Secretary but offered the original £48,997, which is now far less than Clint earned at the pit. So surely Clint can now renegotiate his salary in the same way as all Secretaries have in Yorkshire since the Scargill rule book was imposed? “Yes” they say. So what’s the problem? Two fold, firstly Clint insists that Arthur Scargill be allowed to represent him in the negotiations, and this has been refused by the National Chair Nicky Wilson and the NEC. Secondly it’s not just the salary. New terms and conditions have been imposed on the post which greatly restrict the role and general authority of the position (allegedly; we only have this on hear say but rings true). These terms and the manner in which they are imposed are alleged to be tantamount to changing the rules after the game is over and are unacceptable to Clint.
So that, so far is what we have been able to make of the current sorry sad mess.
Where did it all go wrong? Well in our view it went wrong with the imposition of the new rule book, but then it went even further wrong by the unofficial ad-hoc out of sight negotiations which went on for the posts of national secretary and president, as well as the nod and a wink to improve the terms at Area level over and above what the rule stipulate.
These are far too open to favouritism and abuse and are not directly accountable to the member’s decisions or even knowledge.

How the current mess will be resolved should by rights be at Conference this coming weekend with an open debate, a laying of cards and principles on the table and let conference decide as it should have in the first place. What will happen instead is that this will go to court and some fool of a judge with a sheep on his head, will decide what’s best and fair for the NUM, and at considerable cost to the members.

What needs to be done is the creation of a rule, which is discussed and voted upon by all members of the union, and voted on at conference which clearly spells out what the salary is, no negotiations, no piss corner agreements, that’s it, and if you stand that’s what you get. If you don’t think its enough, don’t stand.

The level of that salary ought to be The Average Wage of the Miners being represented , with the payment of actual expenses, not a fixed notional fee which you might not actually spend and becomes an additional perk. No purchase of cars or houses. Those would be paid for out of the money we pay the officials in the same way we pay for ours. Obviously the question of loss of pension during the period of office has to be considered and any other real losses, but this is the basis for a fair and transparent system.

This is the picture so far as careful enquiry and views from both side have been presented to me, if there are further corrections here, please let us know.

 

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Martin Jenkinson

 Sad to announce the death of Martin Jenkinson at the age of 64 from cancer; a professional photographer of the trade union and labour movement. Most of us active in the NUM will have run into Martin many many times over the years, our collections of photo's will be stuffed with photos which actually he took. He always bollocked me for using his photo's and not crediting them as his, since he was always in the same places me and loads of other workers on strike, on pickets, on lobbies, on demo's I always got his photos mixed up with my own, although obviously a moments reflection on the quality of his over mine would have soon sorted them out. He photographed loads of Hatfield men and our banner over many many years, and we always asked for copies which he always sent. His most famous pics were from Orgreave, the shot of the mounted cop about to bring his club down on the women's head, the miners being battered by the 'rock on tommy' ice cream stall, the face to face shot of the Edlington miner in the little plastic bobbies helmet nose to nose with a cop on the picket line. He was an artist, but one at the disposal of the workers movement. He will be a sad loss to us all. Our struggles however will live on forever through his courageous shots and magnificent eye , standing his ground in the thick of danger to get his photo. A class war photographer.
 
David Douglass

 

 

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Withdrawal of News Views and Updates, comment on:-
“NEC Elections Update” and
“Yorkshire Area Agent/ General Secretary Elect”...items.

June 2012

David Douglass.

After complaints from a number of Yorkshire miners about the content of the above two items, I have asked the editor to remove them from the site. The complaints were that these items were one sided, and more importantly inaccurate. This website aims at promoting a frank and honest and transparent debate within the union, and while we hold the right to take a view, and a side in any argument, we aim to do this based upon facts. After reviewing the last three items on NEC elections and Area Agent / General Secretary I have to conclude that although the item headed “Yorkshire Area NEC Elections 2012” is square enough and I stand by it, the other two (above mentioned) items are not.

The central portion of the coverage on these topics claims Mr. Clint Whitehead, has refused to take up the position (General Secretary / Yorkshire Area Agent) to which he was recently elected by a landslide vote of the members because he wants an increase in the current salary, and wishes to substantially increase the wages and terms over those of the previous outgoing general secretary Chris Kitchen. I have to admit that I have no evidence for this belief whatever, and it was based purely on internal union hearsay.  The position is somewhat additionally complicated because I believe that the salary Mr. Kitchen was drawing was actually less than he was entitled to under rule, as a personal act of principle.
 An alternative position is being offered that Mr. Whitehead would be happy to accept the previous terms and conditions enjoyed by Mr. Kitchen but these are not now on offer and have in fact been withdrawn.  I am told by Mr. Whiteheads supporters that he is asked to take a salary substantially lower than that enjoyed by the previous Area Secretary. I have to stress that this too is simply an opinion which is being offered, and I have no evidence to proved that either one of these conflicting positions is the truth. I am also told that a more important reason for the conflict over the position and Mr. Whiteheads inability to take it up is the terms of reference and role traditionally understood as going with the position. Mr. Whiteheads supporters say the role and authority of the General Secretary / Area Agent have been considerably changed since the election and now impose a number of restrictions on the incoming Secretary which were not previously in place. Again, I have no proof or otherwise that this is or isn’t the case, but in the interests of fairness and balance have included them.

The miner’s website is always happy to print an informed view from the Yorkshire Area or National Officials of the union and those of Mr. Whitehead who can state their positions from themselves before the membership.

The area union is in a mess that much is a fact; the infighting is absorbing the time and energy of the officials and disuniting the union which is bleeding to death from lack of recruitment and new areas of organization. The members are heartily sick of the constant war which is why 500 of them boycotted the NEC election altogether.

There will always be personality clashes within any organization, there will perhaps always be differences of politics and approach too, but these should not dominate and distract the union from its role, of representing mineworkers and mining communities. This union belongs to the members, not its officials past present or future.
The only way to resolve these conflicts is by open and transparent debate, by more democracy not less.

If were going to sort this union out, and it needs sorting we have to get back to some basic old time fundamental demands from the rule book.

  1. No official of the union to be paid more than the average wage of the workers he represents. Expenses paid only for actual sums of expense not notional fixed sums of money which become a perk. No purchases of houses or cars by the union in addition to the salary, miners buy theirs from their wages and the officials of the union should do the same from theirs.
  2. All national, area and branch positions subject to national, area or branch ballot of the members.
  3. All national, area and branch positions to be subject to bi annual election.
  4. Leave of absence to be negotiated with all mining employers to ensure officials voted out of office have the right to return to work at the pit.
  5. National Executive Committee to be elected on the basis of one member for every work place or colliery, and elected by the respective work place or colliery. This would grant every pit a position on the NEC as of right, and every none working and working NUM area one representative. This would restore the balance between men still working in collieries and those officials serving the interests of retired men and former coalfield communities
  6. All NUM branches and areas would have the right to table resolutions to the NEC for discussion and action based upon the situation in the industry.
  7. Restoration of annual conference, and rule revision conferences.
  8. Engagement of a national organizing strategy and if necessary a National Organiser to relaunch the union and rebuild membership. Organise all mineworkers regardless of mineral they mine (such as Potash etc), and restart organizing at open cast sites as we historically always did.
  9. Reappointment of a full time union Mines Inspector
  10. Strict enforcement of our rights under s123 of the M&Q act, to elect independent miners mines inspectors, and to receive full training in mines safety monitoring equipment, detectors, hydrometers, bulb injection lamps,  and mining safety legislation, M&Q , COSH etc
  11. Organise regular on site report back and update meetings from the area officials on colliery sites to keep the membership abreast with the current situation
  12. Fight for the expansion of clean coal technology and redevelopment of the British coal mining industry.

 

These are the sorts of things which should be engaging the debates and discussions within the union and around this sort of programme we could all agree? The forthcoming NUM conference in July could still debate such a programme at least in outline, and call a national rule revision conference to update the rule book accordingly and put an end to the internal divisions within the union.

For an open democratic fighting NUM under the control of the rank and file.

 

 

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Notice sent to Spanish comrades.

For immediate release:

Please circulate as widely as possible to your contacts in the miners’ unions, Spanish trade unions generally and the media

Former miners and trade union supporters in the UK last night launched the Spanish Miners’ Solidarity Committee in Sheffield, Yorkshire.

The Committee pledged itself to campaign nationally in the UK labour and trade union movement and in the mining community for solidarity with the striking miners and their families in the Spanish Asturias, Aragon and Léon coalfields.

UK supporters of the Spanish coal miners know only too well the consequences – economic, social and political – of butchering the coal industry.

Today there are just a handful of deep mines in the UK. This is all that remains of an industry that even 30 years ago employed more 200,000 men.

In its place, there is only mass unemployment, poverty and  social deprivation and decay. That future faces the Spanish miners if they are defeated

The Committee has also committed itself to raise funds for the families of the striking miners, an effort that has already begun, and maximise assistance to their just struggle.

A letter of solidarity, signed by former miners and miners’ leaders from the main UK coalfields and other trade unionists, has been prepared and will be sent to the Spanish miners’ organisations during this week.

The Committee’s efforts have already won the support of the internationally renowned film-maker Ken Loach who asked us to send this message to those struggling in defence of pits, jobs and communities in Spain..

His message?:  ‘"Not for the first time, it is miners who fight on behalf of all working people. This crisis causes such misery through mass unemployment and attacks on working conditions and the social wage. The responsibility lies with the ruling class and those who defend an intolerable, unjust system. Good wishes and solidarity"

Two representatives of the committee, which was launched by the Miners Info network, will travel to Spain for discussions with Spanish miners and their families later this week.


For further information:

E-mail: SMSC@talktalk.net

Tel:  + 44 7785 79 11 34

 

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Yorkshire Area NEC Elections
2012
 David Douglass

Elections for the 2012 National Executive Committee NUM, Yorkshire Area representatives is ongoing as the report is prepared. It marks a dramatic change in the way these elections have been held hitherto, for the first time in my four decades plus of membership, candidates are running in two distinct factions for all three positions. Previously candidates threw their hats in the ring, and the membership voted which three they wanted, a sort of pick n mix with regard to pits and politics. Of course you can still vote that way if you wish. What is unique in this election is that whereas the election address of each candidate would have simply addressed each individuals history and outlook, this one has block address’s, calling for support for ‘a slate’ and the order in which you should vote in order to elect that whole ‘slate’. It is doubtful that this sort of address and tactic would have previously been allowed under rule, and marks the ongoing bitter divisions within the Yorkshire Area of the union. Essentially the two blocks come down to Chris Kitchen the  current NEC member seeking election,  and  two other candidates who stand politically with him seeking election for the first time, Keith Hartshorne a development worker from Kellingley and Bob Fitzpatrick a development worker from Hatfield Main .Their rival candidates are led by Clint Whitehead of Maltby Branch.  The opposition seeks to highlight what it considers to be the failings of the Chris and indeed the NEC as a whole, the sitting candidates wish to defend their role.

One of the current NEC members Steve Mace of Maltby Branch is currently suspended from the union under the disciplinary procedure so can’t seek re-election and his position is now vacant.

Since the last election the expansion of union membership at Hatfield Colliery was ensured an additional seat on the NEC, so there are two additional candidates running for this position one of whom is Bob Fitzpatrick a branch official at Hatfield who has worked so hard to expand the membership, and along with Howie Saunders the Secretary gain meaningful union recognition and safety inspections.
Under the previous management Bob was victimized as they tried to squeeze him out of the pit, while Howie’s health suffered badly resulting in a heart attack. (He is however back at work and back to active union duties, while the new management has a much better relationship with Bob and the union)

So the slates stack up like this, two Maltby and one Kellingley against the old leadership: Andrew Williams (Maltby) Clint Eastwood (Maltby) and Dennis Howard a development worker at Kellingley who was nominated by the Maltby branch.

As a block with the current leadership comes Bob Fitzpatrick a development worker at Hatfield Main, along with Keith Hartshorne development worker at Kellingley, and Chris Kitchen, previously a development worker from Kellingley and up until last months Area Agent election was agent and Area General Secretary.

Chris LOST the election for Agent and by tradition this means also loosing the position of General Secretary, to Clint Whitehead who now takes both positions.
It is without irony that Clint campaigned on the current NEC election “I am a working miner whereas none of those currently on the NEC works at a pit”, is now elected Area Agent and will not be working at a pit if he gets elected to the NEC in other words exactly the same position as Chris Kitchen which he is critical of !

So what are the issues?  As in most of what has wracked the NUM in Yorkshire for the last seven years and more you will see no reference to the bare bones of contention here. In my view issues are elaborated to advance the hidden struggle beneath the surface, but let’s look at those that are raised in the current election.

Firstly comes complaint from the opposition candidates that the NEC is undemocratic and doesn’t represent the men at the pits.

In brief this is largely true, BUT the full truth is the NEC is far more democratic than it was before Chris Kitchen took over the secretary ship of the Yorkshire Area and became the General Secretary of the NUM nationally (this position is elected from the members of the NEC following a rule change introduced by Arthur Scargill)
Both NUM conference and the NEC were dictatorships hog tied by a thoroughly undemocratic rule book which had been imposed on the Yorkshire Area and by vote rigging.

Chris has fought tirelessly to redress the undemocratic procedures and change the most offensive rules get the officials salaries and expenses out in the open and actually discover what was being paid to whom for what. This has resulted in a number of legal cases and bitter disputes between the former President Arthur Scargill and Chris Kitchen. Much of the current and ongoing bitterness in reality reflects where you line up in these disputes and questions of rank and file control and clipping the wings of the bureaucracy. Ironically given that it has been Chris who has led this struggle at national level, he is now accused of those very same failings.

Maltby did try to have the question of the composition of the NEC raised at the forthcoming national conference which is the only place it can be changed and did propose a rule change to the Yorkshire Area to advance at that conference. Sadly it was utterly undemocratic in its proposal the effect would have been to reduce the number on the NEC to 7, 6 from Yorkshire and 1 to represent all other Areas. Yorkshire Area Council thought this would be divisive and it didn’t get a seconder. Even if it had it could never have achieved the 2/3rd majority needed at conference to pass as other areas would never vote to disenfranchise themselves. Just why Maltby thought miners in Wales or Nott’s or Staffs or open cast miners in Scotland should have only 1 representative between them is hard to judge , but if this is an example of the new democracy on offer here it doesn’t bode well.
The fact is, we have perhaps seven working deep mines in Britain with NUM members, four of them Hatfield, Maltby, Kellingley, Hay Royds Drift, in Yorkshire.
There is one working pit in Nott’s, and one in moth balls, the working pit has NUM members (though the majority is still UDM). One in Staffs, which is something like 50-50 with UDM men. One (and sometimes two) working mines in South Wales. The Scotland Area has working open cast miners in membership but no deep mines.  (In this regard it is less than honest for Clint Whitehead for example to say of the current NUM President “..people who don’t even have a pit and a president living nearer the Outer Hebrides than the nearest colliery” Nicky Wilson is President of the Scottish miners and NEC elected NUM president ) Those are the areas representing working miners. All of the other areas represented on the NEC have NO working miners, but represent tens of thousands of retired and redundant mineworkers and mining communities. Some of these Areas of the union are actually no longer ‘unions’ as such in terms of the Certification Officer’s criteria (having no workers working for companies and employers to represent, one of the qualifications for being a Trade Union). The number of non working areas outnumbers the areas with working miners. This is an injustice, but it was an injustice when Arthur was president and worked in his favour to force through the rule book all the working areas and miners hated so much. The situation wasn’t invented by Chris Kitchen or this current NEC and he at least has tried in his brief period of office to redress it. In this he is lumbered by another of Arthur’s rules which not only limited the number of duff rules you could change at a time, but also brought in bi-annual conferences which further meant you could only do it every two years. Actually NUM conferences even once every two years are getting shorter with few areas submitting resolutions. The accusation from working areas that areas with no working mines ought not to submit resolutions caused the North East area for example, for the first time in its long and distinguished history NOT to submit any resolutions to conference this year. At the same time the issues complained of in this NEC election do not feature on the agenda either for the reason outlined. The alternative was worse than what currently operates.

So we all actually agree the NEC needs transforming, and it needs to do that at conference. All working mines with more than 20 members should be directly represented on the NEC, which means each pit or working branch would elect a NEC member. (The NUM doesn’t simply represent underground coal miners of course. We previously had coke works and transport depots, offices, repair shops and ancillary trades. Likewise we used to organize open cast workers and only now do so on any scale in Scotland. Given that half of all coal produced in Britain is from open cast it is time areas like Derbyshire Northumberland Durham and Nott’s started to do so again perhaps. ) Areas with no working mines or workers ought to have a mainly consultative and campaigning role on the NEC.  Many non working areas would of course dearly love to become working areas again, and in part maintain the campaign to reopen coalfields which have millions of tonnes of untapped coal, and tens of thousands of unemployed miners and miners sons and grandsons just waiting for the chance to rejoin the industry. So these areas ought not to be simply ignored or side lined or considered irrelevant. They are vital components in the welfare of the miners and their families in the abandoned coalfields and clarions of an expanded coal industry in the future. However we agree the National Union of Mineworkers first and foremost must represent working miners and that should be the dominant membership of the NEC

All of the opposition candidates talk about reuniting the union ending the divisions and internal war, but then take a very definite side and position against the other side. This is simply a continuation of the division. In order to end division you have to have a common and agreed outlook based upon principle and policy, whereas these addresses seem instead to be replays of the old battles. The “internal battles” which Clint speaks of, are actually the ongoing and bitter struggle around the personality and position of Arthur Scargill (that is post strike Arthur, post 93 Arthur nobody in the union has any issues with his role prior to that time). Once Arthur changed the rules to allow him to stay on after his 65 birthday, once he abolished the Yorkshire Area Rule book, once he stuffed conference votes with non existent branches and dead members and even areas in order to win votes, you could only “avoid” a battle by allowing it all to pass. The membership wouldn’t allow it, and at that time the branch leading that fight was Maltby. The incoming General Secretary Chris Kitchen found himself increasingly unable to do the job he was elected to, because of gross interference and levers of office which no longer worked or were being pulled out of shot. He also found getting to the bottom of finances, expenses, and expenditure a crucial part of his job, who was being paid what for what, obscure and unclear. It is in clearing all this bureaucratic crap, that Chris has come into conflict with previous mandarins of the union whose role it has seemed was to obstruct any such opening up of financial decisions and expenditures. At the same time a counter offensive was launched by people within the union, aimed at having Chris kicked out and all the old ways reintroduced with all the accompanying lack of democracy and bureaucratic rules unto themselves which were in place before. It is during this process that branches and staff and officials took sides and it’s true to say their has been little quarter never mind comradeship shown by either side. Many dear and loyal comrades have parted friendships and taken alternative sides during this period, it has been thoroughly sickening and even the closest of previous comrades have become avowed enemies.

Clint Whitehead makes the point of the suspension of Steve Mace and while we do not know the specific charges against Steve we know him to have been a very vigorous supporter of Arthur within the union during the struggle to free his grip from control within the union. Steve may well have been a victim of the faction fight. Clint doesn’t mention however that under the previous leadership, Arthur’s leadership with the all the area officials within his camp, Jeff Stubbs, also from Maltby who was the elected Area Agent with the highest recorded votes was not only deprived of the position of General Secretary but subsequently sacked because he fought for democracy within the union. Whole branches were closed down during this period and a number of people suspended and sacked. So meet the new boss same as the old boss, only difference here was it was different sides doing the same thing.

Moving onto criticisms of the recent wages and conditions negotiations at Kellingley and Hatfield and the deals the men there have ended up with. The bottom line is ‘what do the members think?’ any negotiation, any deal can only be accepted or rejected by the members not Chris or the leaders. I presume and correct me if I’m wrong the deals were put to the members for acceptance or rejection? Clint thinks the deal at Kellingley is the worse he has ever come across during his career in mining and I suspect this is doubtless true. I am certain Chris Kitchen would be the first to agree with him as well. The problem has to do with the current state of colliery finances and the fortunes of deep coal mining in Britain in the current climate.
The cruel fact is UK coal do not want to be in mining, they have three pits all on the brink of financial disaster, and could well pack up shop and walk at any time. Despite the world market for coal, the conditions in Britain given government fuel and energy policy it is doubtful there will be an army of potential buyers waiting to take over the business.  Coal power is crippled in Britain by massive punitive taxes aimed at stopping its consumption, ‘the green tax’ they call it. So are we in a strong bargaining position right now, are we in a period when we can fight and win? Are the companies secretly sitting on bags of money but are telling us their skint? These are the considerations Chris had to face, the companies opened the books, the situation is dire. In such circumstances is this a time to push or hang fire? Now there is a school of thought I subscribe to which says, this is capitalism mister, YOU have chosen to be boss and run and the business, WE are the miners, we mine the coal for wages, you run the business and we’ll mine the coal. We’ve done our part of this relationship now pay up, don’t complain to me you haven’t done yours. That’s a perfectly respectable position to take. Fight for what we need not what they can afford. BUT you have to remember and be truthful the outcome of such a battle is unlikely in the present climate and state of energy market to be easily successful. Likewise at Hatfield, this pit has just spearheaded the most important single development in the coal industry in the last fifty years, agreement to develop the first clean coal power station to burn coal with CCS. The plant hasn’t started to be built yet and the pit itself is financially on the knifes edge. It has to overcome the next period to ensure a) that the pit continues and develops and b) on the back of it the future of the entire British coal industry survives and expands. Now, the position Hatfield is in mining wise is due to the crass mismanagement employed by the current and previous coal owners. Hatfield needs, one operating coal face, and another ready developed and waiting to go in case of faults or breakdown and a third being won at any time. Instead we have ONE operating face, no back up and one being won with a planned completion date based on smooth operating and non problem production on that one operating face. History and practical coal mining tells us the current situation was almost bound to happen at some time. Loss of face room, no production.  But after saying all that, is this the right time to dig our heels in and fight on shift schedules and bonus’s, are we in a strong bargaining position? One could argue that a strong poker face and a ‘fuck’em’ determination might yield results and if it doesn’t so what shut it  then, but would such a stance, hard and uncompromising though it is, reflect the best policy for the branch and area to adopt at this time ? Again only the members can give you your marching orders on this one, but to suggest Chris has just gone all weak kneed and thrown in his lot with the coal owners for the sake of peace is hardly near the true situation is it ?
At times like this we ought to be making advances of non financial kinds, extending the degree of control we exercise over the productive forces. Taking back control of overtime and weekend work to the union for example. Taking back control of manning and team composition, re-assertion of the Doncaster priority system of union controlled face and driving teams. Input into recruitment policy, post entry union membership. Encouragement of a 100% union site.  These things can be demanded and conceded (although they wont like it) without cost financially but with lasting results for the union.

Andrew Williams a Maltby candidate for the NEC raises another criticism and one which aroused much froth at the time. Namely that the NEC had discussions with the current leadership of the scab UDM. We have discussed this vexed matter elsewhere on this website and the issues are deeply felt as well they might be, but the issues have also been falsely represented. Firstly do we objectively speaking need a single miners union uniting all miners in Britain, and that union to be the NUM?
The answer is obvious; a divided workforce in a tiny coal industry using the yellow dog outfit against us all the time can only favour the employers to the determent of all miners everywhere. We need a single united union. That means we have to adopt a pragmatic attitude to men who scabbed during the long strike. The union before the strike was finished resolved (against my views and those of the whole Doncaster area by the way) to allow scabs to stay in membership. Had it not done so, about a third of the miners in Yorkshire and almost every man at some pits , would have been kicked out of the union and probably joined the UDM given them majority status at some pits, Kellingley and Selby for example and some pits in South Yorkshire. It would have lost us whole areas. Instead the union right or wrong decided to keep the fabric of the union intact to fight another day, and keep the scabs even those who scabbed for twelve months in the NUM. Before the UDM was formed and while they were in the throws of doing so, Arthur urged all the scabs in Nott’s and Derbyshire to stay in the NUM, his slogan was ‘there is room for every miner in the NUM except Lynk , and the founders of the scab outfit’ . I was dispatched to the Nott’s coalfield, while the cars were still burning to try and persuade the men I had thrown half bricks at to stay in the NUM. Fact. So the NUM welcomed into its ranks the scabs. We didn’t like it, I opposed it, but in the end at pits were they were the majority or near enough, it ended up being the right policy for the right reasons. Even at Hatfield we ended up agreeing to work with them (although within two years every one was forced to transfer to Scab friendly pits).
So with Lynk and all the scab leaders no longer in the UDM with nearly half of its members men who were not in the industry when the strike was even on, they being too young, it seemed a right time to explore possibilities of the UDM winding up and their former members coming back over to the NUM. This without doubt would have been a crushing victory FOR US and a defeat for them who tried to use this outfit to defeat us. That was my view, and I go further, I would move on to merge with NACODs to have a truly industrial union again, one coal industry one union, I would take into membership all non organized open cast sites, and in particular all coal being worked at former colliery sites . That is a perspective for progress and meeting the challenges of today rather than reliving the battles of the past, we will never forgive the bastards who scabbed I personally will never forgive them or excuse them but we don’t have to. So in a nutshell that was that one, it was worth an exploratory meeting. As it turned out, it was used as an excuse to attack Chris for entirely other agenda’s outlined here rather than over that tactic itself.

So we will see which way the members vote and what becomes of the new members of the NEC.

A fighting programme for the union and democracy would ensure
No official paid more than the average wage of the workers he represents.
All officials subject to annual election.
NEC comprising one member per working branch as of right
None working areas a consultative and campaigning welfare role only.
Half yearly conference comprising one delegate and one observer per working branch directly from branches rather than as area delegations. Plus area officials and executives in non voting capacity. Branches to move resolutions and rule changes directly to conference without Area endorsement.
All delegates to vote only on mandate from the men they represent.
Campaign for an expanded coal industry, based upon CCS and clean coal technologies.
No new Nukes.
No Wind Turbines in environmentally sensitive areas and areas of unspoiled natural beauty, mountains, fells, moors, crag land and coastal areas.
Integrated fuel and energy policy
Government financed research and development of coal reserves
Access sterilized coal reserves in closed collieries
Sink new mines in untapped reserves.
No open cast deeper than 100 feet where there is a shallow drift option
No fracking
No liquification of coal reserves.
Workers and consumers control of the coal and energy industry.
For an international miners union based upon democratic branches and recallable delegates. No import controls. State subsidies for British coal on a parallel basis as imports. ‘Fair Trade’ on international coal in terms of wages and conditions and free trade unions.

Now THAT’S an NEC election statement.

 

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Yorkshire Area lowers  members subs !

The Area Officials and NUM Council of the Yorkshire Area are to be heartily congratulated for
their decision to lower the full membership fees. Needless to say at times of squeezed budgets all round and ever increasing demands on the union services with a falling membership this is a bold and remarkable decision. It is one we certainly endorse and welcome. The Yorkshire Area at its Jan 16th meeting endorsed the proposal.

The Area has been sticking tight to its policy of not increasing subs and had held the rate at £4.54 per month for the last six years come what may. Now following a report given to the meeting by the Area Secretary the council delegates representing the three Yorkshire Area branches agreed a reduction was both sustainable and affordable.

This has been made possible by the recent reallocation of Yorkshire Area property, which had been standing unused though still a drag on Area finances, all property has now been renovated and rented out. Also from the reduction of staff as Arthur Scargill is no longer in the employment of the NUM Yorkshire Area Trust Fund.

The report adds “Over the last three years there has been a great deal of expenditure on legal costs to resolve internal disputes, costs that have prevented the savings made from being passed on to you, the members, earlier.

These costs will come to an end over the coming months as cases are settled by the courts”

The Area Council accepted the recommendation to lower the full member contribution rate to £4 per week.

We can only say on behalf of the full NUM members, ‘job well done’.

 

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Scargill Wars….the saga continues

Recent reports suggest Arthur Scargill had ‘won’ £12000 damages against the NUM for loss of expenses.
The report appears to have been sent in to Radio journalists by someone with a partisan view point though we couldn’t comment on who. The judge apparently commented on the hard work Arthur had done for the NUM Trust fund and the union, especially it seems his work on VWF. Nobody in this union can doubt Arthur’s contribution to it or his firm resolve during the run up to the great strike and shortly afterwards, but by 1988 Arthur’s finest moments were gone, and in our view he should have left at that stage and the union would have been that much stronger and more unified than the willful internal wars which followed. Certainly had he left at that stage he would have been at his peak of popularity and retained all his friends and comrades who dearly loved and respected him.  Sadly it was downhill from there as Arthur moved heaven and hell to retain position and influence in the union

The legend that Arthur had been a champion of the VWF  came as a surprise to many in the union as Arthur was a long way behind the ‘8’ ball on VWF which was spearheaded by the Northern Area of the NUM markedly Durham. Arthur was fearful a rash of cases could cost the union lots of money and was far from confident of their success. At the same time the absurd decision had been made to close down the NUM’s own legal dept, at a time when a bonanza of legal claims would be unleashed by solicitors and every hick legal firm in the country. The only cases being pursued in Yorkshire at that time, was in Doncaster, one at the Mining Communities Advice Centre at Stainforth, and the other through Dave Murdock’s COSA office on Chequer Road. The union was operating an arm length operation through Doncaster Council as The Compensation Recovery Scheme from Murdock’s office and staff from this centre addressed the official education school at Scarborough to process the claims and give advice. It was only later when the amounts of money leaking away from the union was realized, that Arthur moved quickly to close the gap and take control of the claims. It was also realized that the more claims taken up and Limited memberships being signed on increased the voting power of the branches which were running them.  In the process Murdock was expelled from the Union for running ‘a private operation’ while Dave Douglass was brought before the NEC and ordered to close down the Advice Centre.  ‘official’ retired members branches were then created and all Limited Memberships transferred to The Area Office. This allowed Arthur subsequently to claim all these  limited members votes as a block vote of ‘The Area Office Branch’ cast at his discretion and capable of outvoting any working branch in Yorkshire and holding the deciding vote on almost any issue.

The judge also admonished the NUM for failing to give enough credit to Arthur for his suggestion of recovering £8million from Raleys for their handling of the union’s compensation cases, particularly VWF and COPD.  The problem was it wasn’t actually recovered because the legal advice was it couldn’t be done and would waste possibly millions in the attempt. The judge didn’t comment on Arthur’s other legal advice, that the Yorkshire Area shouldn’t act to secure compensation on miners knee conditions. This advice was acted on leaving Durham and Scotland and few other areas to carry the huge costs of the vitally important legal case on behalf of the members. At this moment that whole case which tens of thousands of our members are keenly interested in hangs in the balance of a pending appeal.

Actually members may wonder what is going on in this seeming ‘never ending story’ of bitter conflict between the NUM and former national president Arthur Scargill. The quickest way to understand the background is to actually read David Douglass’s book Ghost Dancers which takes the history of the NUM over the last generation up to the relevant period. Basically, it comes down to one fact. At 65 years old Arthur should have retired from the union that is what the rule book stated should happen. Unfortunately Arthur drafted a new rule book, which allowed him to become ‘Honorary President’ until he reached age 75. The rule changes were bitterly fought, and the voting procedures were highly questionable involving use of dead member’s votes, widow’s votes and various phantom branches of the union such as The Area Office Branch and also an amazing National Office Branch which no-one had ever heard of before or since. We were assured at the time the position was purely honorary that this was just a title though officials at the time asked why Arthur Scargill needed a title? Later it emerged Arthur would receive consultation fees from at least two areas including Yorkshire. The Honorary position in fact involved him staying in position in the national office, with staff and representing the union in numerous activities, and intervening in the work and policy of the union. What the total expenses paid to Arthur were, and for what, was an ongoing source of discussion and annoyance.
While ever national and area officials were in Arthur’s political and union faction camp, there was little real transparency as they co-coordinated their roles with his. However with the election of a new leadership came a switch in the balance of power (it seems crazy talking of ‘power’ in a union with something like 2000 members nationally in an industry of perhaps 3500) and Chris Kitchen, the new General Secretary and Yorkshire Area Secretary, along with Chris Skidmore the Area President, found themselves somewhat in a position of ‘duel power’ with more than their hands on the wheel. They had also found increasingly bad blood in the office and the union as some staff members seen themselves answerable to Arthur ‘upstairs’ instead of their actual employers ‘downstairs’. Control of finance and accountability of expenditure in the ever declining union became a primary goal of Mr. Kitchen, as he set off to discover who was paid what, and for what? The whole issue was complicated by a new leadership at Maltby branch who had numerous complaints about the way in which the union operated and various rules (all of them which had been brought in during Arthur’s reign) they deemed unfair and discriminatory. Arthur then aligned himself with the various causes of the Maltby Branch as they did his, while Ken Capstick the Editor of the Miner and Press Officer also fought the corner of Arthur against the incumbent union leadership at National and Area level.
It has not made for unity of any sort, and the union has found itself convulsed in court cases and Industrial Tribunals with the Union Certification Officer and Industrial Court. Meantime the actual issues on the ground at the pits and in the branches failed to get the full attention of the union and its officials as they slogged it out. ‘Control’ of the union, its policy, its finances and democracy are the questions at the heart of this whole affair.

So we come to the latest round of court action. The Union had taken steps to control what it seen as unwarranted expenditures, and expenses paid to Mr. Scargill which they considered to be illegitimate. Arthur then sues the Union for loss of these expenses.

So who won what? Scargill has won £12,000 towards a car... he was seeking £15,000 on the Officials car agreement.

He has been told that he was not entitled to the payment of his 2 land lines at Treelands (his house at Barnsley) or his mobile phone which he was claiming had cost him £5,000 since they were stopped in April 2010. No one knew that he got over £14,000 in 2005 towards a car, a payment that the Judge agreed was £5,000 more than he was entitled to but that was a clerical mistake it seems.
 
The fuel bills (full amount of his gas bill) which last year was over £4,000, the cost of his security system and payment of his accountants fees which were paid by the Yorkshire Area Trust and suspended in April 2010 had been dropped from this case and Arthur has put in a counter claim against the National Union for them which will be part of the Barbican case. The Barbican is the luxury flat in London, which the union has been paying for Arthur to use as a ‘rest and recreation’ apartment and Arthur claims is his residence and as a former official he is entitled to it.

Chris Kitchen the NUM General Secretary commented on the decision
‘…that if Arthur had any morals he should consider paying back the money he has had for his phone bills over the last 8 years that he was not entitled to and  that if Arthur had put as much effort into protecting the members and the industry that he has put into looking after himself things might be a lot different to what they are…’

All eyes will be on the Barbican case which is forthcoming and should really draw a line under the whole affair, we hope. None of this leaves a very nice taste in the mouth, as good comrades and loyal members of the union have taken up sides, mainly out of respect for Arthur’s past proud role rather than the facts of the current situation of which they tend not to understand. There is also an assumption that anything and anybody which stands in opposition to Arthur Scargill is defacto in the right wing, this is not and has not been the case since the end of the 80s. All of the forces involved in this battle are of the left. The questions here are those of rank and file control and financial transparency. It would be a happy day indeed if this union could go back to the dream of our founders that NO Staff Member or Elected Official is paid more than the average wage of the miners they represent NO MATTER WHO they are are.

 

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Research into the events at Orgreave

David Conn, a journalist for the Guardian newspaper, is researching the events at Orgreave during the miners strike. He is looking to talk to the miners who were prosecuted for riot, in a prosecution which then collapsed, and they were all acquitted. The miners then sued and won a settlement from the South Yorkshire Police in 1991. He is also contacting the lawyers who represented the men for full legal details of the cases.

Some of the miners prosecuted and acquitted of all charges were:
Bernard Jackson
Arthur Critchlow
David Moore
George Foulds
Ernest Barber
Kevin Marshall
George Forster
James O'Brien
Eric Newbiggin
David Bell

If any of these men, or anybody with detailed knowledge of Orgreave and what happened afterwards, can contact David Conn, he is very keen to talk to them. His email address is: david.conn@guardian.co.uk

 

 

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From Roy Lambeth and the committee of The Durham Mining Museum

The Durham Mining Museum has now relocated to Spennymoor Town Hall.

The museum is normally open Monday to Friday 12 noon to 4pm and Saturday 10am to 2pm

We re-open after the Christmas break on Tuesday 3rd January and will be closed for essential Town Hall maintenance from Febuary 9th to February 29th.

 

 

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Carbon Capture, Hatfield Main and Clean Coal Technologies

David Douglass

Devastating news came last week with an article in the Spectator, announcing the plug was being pulled on Carbon Capture in Britain. Readers will know of course that CCS is a process linked to other clean coal technologies, which takes CO2 out of the coal burning process, captures it and stores it below ground in empty oil and gas wells. The gas and oil having been sealed in rock for hundreds of millions of years and survived every convulsion the earth had thrown up, it would be highly if highly unlikely to ever escape. We can seal the drill hole harder than the original strata so the whole chamber is secured. Given the massive consumption of coal in the world, and the fears about ‘global warming’ being caused by coal consumption and the production of CO2 a clean technology which would stop or greatly reduce this process has been urgently sought.

Let’s be quite clear, we are not all that convinced by the panic about “climate change” which is as natural as the earth turning and has always occurred since the earth was
born. Despite the hippy clamour to ‘stop climate change’ you can’t stop climate change, any more than you can stop time, or evolution, it is hard wired into the planet and every other planet and star. Climate change created us, and the mammals, millions of species have died out and developed on the back of climate change, land mass has bonded and broke up, continents disappeared and others developed, From a single lump of land floating in an endless ocean, with interiors like the moon and climates like Mars, to breaking in two and then five, and where we are now. The land masses are currently moving back toward each other again, and will at some point millions of years from now become one vast continent again. From a gigantic frozen snowball to volcanic ridden hell, the planet’s climate changes constantly and long long before we ever got here. The polar caps have not always been there, they come and go, they are melting now because the last ice age is over, the planet is warming, in part because our current trajectory is taking us closer to the sun. Having said that, it is clear Human dominance of the planet has added to the warming process by our development and science and industry, but this is as ‘natural’ as any other phase of the earth’s history. It is as natural as when the dinosaurs dominated the earth, or the creatures which predated them. The earth has no particular preference for which species if any occupies its surface.

What is scary for many is not that ‘the planet is dieing’ it isn’t of course, the earth will survive whatever puny effects we have on its ecology and climate, as it has done far more devastating effects of perfectly natural climatic convulsions millions of years before we got her. What is scary is that the conditions of life which sustain US, humanity may become impossible and WE may be wiped out or our life styles and cultures severely curtailed. So efforts should be made to minimize the harmful effects of our dominance on the planet. This leads us to a discussion of what those harmful activities are. The green lobby universally hates coal mining, and by extension often hates coal miners too. Since many of them are middle and upper class folk from highly privileged social backgrounds, often right wing son’s daughters and grandchildren of Thatcher and the Tories, there is no love lost between us in the first place. As coal miners with an understanding of geology and gasses, we are not easily convinced that CO2 and our production of it could possibly have caused the massive impact which it is blamed for.CO2 is a tiny component of the earth’s atmosphere. True, human presence and carbon industries especially coal have greatly increased its proportion over the last century, but it remains a very small player in the field in our view, but let’s accept the arguments despite our cynicism.

Is coal burning the major source of the global warming gasses? As far as we can see Methane is a far worse green house gas than CO2, it is one of the worse, if not THE
WORSE source of greenhouse impacts. Miners do not produce this on any scale but mass and widespread global meat production does. Farming of mass herds of cattle, pigs and sheep etc to supply meat for the meat industry is at least on a par with coal burning for the damage it does. How come? Billions of animals produce billions of cubic feet of methane from their backsides, as does multi million tones of annually produced manure and silage. Secondly and perhaps most importantly is the ever ongoing destruction of the earth’s forests, mostly to make way for the animals, and to make land to farm them. The destruction of the rain forests and areas of dense vegetation in ancient woods and tundra
is producing a spiral of desertification and killing the lungs of the planet, taking away the ability of the earth to change the CO2 into oxygen and maintain a balance of breathable air. The single most important factor in the whole ‘global warming’ process is this feature, destruction of forests, desertification, animal meat production. We have yet to see anything like the clamor directed at this as is directed at coal mining. Odd when you consider that replanting the woodlands and stopping the ongoing destruction could be achieved in a very brief period if the will was there.

Next is transport, private cars, planes, not simply their emissions but also the road building devastation which accompanies them, these too eat up the oxygen producing vegetation countryside and woodlands. Could this be addressed by a return to public transport, mass transit rail systems fueled on clean power? Again it requires only the will.

Finally yes, coal, not so much coal production but the burning of coal unfettered up the chimneys of mass polluting coal power stations. We as miners unions have fought against this waste of our labour and fuel for a century. Clean coal power is possible, the development of these systems focus at present on the CCS plants. We were therefore devastated by the news in the Spectator that CCS research and development HAS ENDED in Britain. Where does that leave our Hatfield Plant? This website has long proclaimed and welcomes the development of the hydrogenisation scheme linked to Hatfield Colliery. The old tip has been cleared in anticipation of its construction which we were told would be on stream by 2014.

Suspiciously things have gone very quiet on that front lately following the failure (Again) of R Budges, last green power,powerfuel company the mine and the power plant went into administration because the company couldn’t raise the match funding to meet that of the grant secured from Europe. So where are we now, given that The Spectator says its all over?

We have banged on lots of MP’s doors and the Energy Minister’s door, but no-one can be found to tell us. Readers ought to raise this question everywhere, “What is happening to the Hatfield Mains Clean Coal Power Station?” We are all the more suspicious because we see the commissioning of a new GAS powered station at Thorpe Marsh, why if the Hatfield Scheme is up and running would we need that too ?

 

We have discovered that the Hatfield power project is being run by 2co energy who have submitted a bid to Europe for funding whereby the captured co2 from the plant will be transported to the north sea for an enhanced oil recovery project whereby its put into mature oil wells to maximize oil production .I’m grateful to Mark Metcalf for this information. This marks a change in the earlier projection which was utility of disused empty oil wells. Does it make the project more problematic and uncertain, it seems too. Any information from the local MP The Leader Of The Labour Party, Ed Milliband would be most welcome but so far we have heard nowt from him on this vital scheme. Let’s be clear here, this scheme and its success are VITAL for the whole of coal production and coal consumption world wide. We need this plant to work; we need it exporting enmass to China and India and the USA to stop the CO2 pollution many think is threatening human life on the planet. Whether that is true is not, and it can’t help, we need to urgently develop clean coal systems. The alternative to these will be vastly more dangerous nuclear power and environmentally wrecking wind turbine estates and pylons covering every square mile of countryside, mountains and seascapes.

 The Company has applied under a fund for new entrants and bids close on Feb. 9th next year, the funds won't in themselves be sufficient to get the project off the ground so other funding streams are required. Just where these are likely to come from given this government and other recent government hostility to British mining is unclear. It is certainly not as optimistic as we had envisaged recently. Readers ought to deluge the Energy Minister with letters demanding the funding is forthcoming and clean coal power given the chance of cleaning up our act.

 Meantime Hatfield Main mine is now being run by the bank, although Hargreaves is actually doing the day to day operations. We understand the mine is doing well, the NUM has a much better relationship with the management than has existed for some time and we welcome this. We are far short of the levels of union membership at this pit which we need to make real demands on the company with regard to the pits long term futures and operations and wages. We urge all the Hatfield Miners reading this piece to urgently get themselves in the union or get their marra’s to join.

Hatfield has the hopes of the entire Yorkshire coalfield, its reserves now extend to the entire Thorne take potentially, and Thorne was mapped out to extract 150 million tones in its first FIVE year plan of operations. There is High Hazel as well as Barnsley at Thorne, and High Hazel is almost certain to exist at former Markham and Askern reserves totally untouched in those pits mining history. Hazel is the premium coal of this region in its calorific values, low ash and chlorine contents.

We hope anyone with more detailed knowledge on any of the above to write into the site.

 

 

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Read 'The Miners' Heritage:
A History of the Durham Aged Mineworkers' Homes by George L Atkinson MBE.

Within the boundaries of the former Durham coalfield there is now little physical evidence that this was once the largest production district in what was then the world's biggest national coal industry. The visitor today would have difficulty in finding a colliery headgear, or in seeing one of the pitheaps which for so many generations were a feature of the landscape.
Today, the few relics of the industry are ruins, memorials, or museum pieces. But in contrast with these pallid witnesses of a great past, there is a thriving and vibrant heritage which the coal miners of Durham built up over the last century, and which gives living testimony to their social concern.
This heritage is the Durham Aged Mineworkers' Homes Association (DAMHA), a registered housing association, and one of the Britain's largest almshouse charities.

Available for download in pdf format from The Durham Aged Mineworkers Homes Assciation web site:
http://www.durhamhomes.org.uk/history-heritage.htm

 

 

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Tragic Events At Gleision Pit, South Wales

Nowhere is the legacy left the coalfield areas by Thatcher more tragically illustrated that the woeful Gleision pit inundation. Here we have proud men, desperate to earn their living and support their families in the only way we know how, opening up what is basically an abandoned mine. Working totally conventional methods with hand held boring machines, shot blasting and hand filling coal they have sought for surviving pillars of coal.

While the height 75cm isn’t anything new to many of us from the older coalfields the lack of any sort of investment other than sweat and graft and wooden timbers and the knifes edged of profit and loss make volatile mixtures. The temptation to work pillars of coal left in to support roofs and hold back water is something which visited us in the worse days of private mining in the early 1840’s. These pillars hold back hundreds, sometimes thousands of millions of gallons of water from worked out mines in the whole region, then the thinner the pillar gets the more certain an inundation. This much is speculation, the disaster enquiry will confirm or contradict this but I think its odd’s on to have been the cause. The mine was mining Anthracite
the worlds most profitable coal seam, for its super calorific value and low ash content. It can fetch double or more the price of normal coal, and the men at this pit were clearly supplying a strong local market, which earned them a good living.

Something like 20 on the these little drifts and ‘day holes’ exist round the country,some of which are illustrated on this site. Often worked by families of miners or friends they run on a shoe string, often non union, the mines inspectorate periodic visits can never replace a strong miners union on site . The whip hand here is not however non unionism, but lack of a modern coal industry or any industry in which to work. Safety is expensive, every complaint can drive the pit into closure so many keep stum when they know damn well the clock is ticking. What contracts the men were working under is unclear, they may well have been ‘self employed’ or operating some ‘share scheme’ based solely on output. That a disaster fund to bring the victims families some income following the deaths suggests these men were vulnerable to just such an eventuality as this.

 Early reports from the mine, that heavy rain had caused the inundation never rang true; even the basic pump system of this mine could cope with any amount of rain water. Although we don’t know for certain, as pitmen we know this has got to be mine water which has broken through dams and probably  weakened damns. Chris Kitchen the NUM General Secretary has asked the question whether lessons learned and new regulations introduced following the Lofthouse inundation were applied here. Part of these regulations was that plans of standing water, damns and support pillars had to be highlighted and observed in colliery operating plans submitted to the HMI. The other part of the regulation was that extended boring in advance of the operating face to test geology in front for old workings and standing water had to be carried out. In a mine of seven underground workers using hand held boring machines, was such a proscription considered practical, or was the men’s faith placed in colliery plans solely to predict were mine water and old workings were ?
The enquiry will doubtless tell us this.

We none of us wanted to admit it, but we more or less knew there was no hope for these men almost from the beginning; the silence told us that. Underground pipe work runs for hundreds of miles on all levels. The international mining distress call signal that survivors remain is signed by banging on the pipes, the noise and vibrations run throughout the workings. In this case there was no banging.

We are proud Wayne Thomas the General Secretary of the NUM in Wales was at the pit head from the beginning. It is believed we had one member at the mine, a mate of Wayne’s and a veteran of the old Tower Colliery. Tower was a workers buyout, it was run by the union at the pit, and worked decades without a single accident or death. But Tower  had been a political victory, with a guaranteed market for its specialist coal won at the point of nation wide labour movement lobbying and community opinion.  The security of Tower’s market (and of course their hard work and skill) ensured room for investment, and safety. At Gleision seven or eight men one of whom was the owner struggled in appalling conditions to win two or three hundred tonnes a week all off the shovel to local coal dealers.

Of course coal mining is a dangerous job. Under the old NCB and with a strong union with the back up of a powerful labour movement forcing legislative backup the Coal Board set a high safety standard. Safety got steadily stronger over its entire life (which doesn’t mean it was ‘safe’ accidents and tragedies still happened). Privatization in 1993 and repeal of many mine safety laws still left in place a strongly policed safety culture enforced by the NUM and its independent rights of safety and inspection. As the private companies have abandoned more and more mines, cut back on the dwindling number of miners, so the pool of mines and work has got smaller and miners more and more desperate. The announcement of a couple of hundred jobs at the re-opened Hatfield Colliery, seen thousands and thousands of applications from unemployed miners across the country, the same thing had happened with the opening of Adventure mine in South Wales. For others even the offer of work in dangerous day holes and small drifts like this is a temptation. Its pit work, work we have been bred to, its security, odd though that seems now, and it’s a decent living , mining never has been just a job though, and that element cannot be ignored. Mining is a challenge, a hard physical test of sinew and mental strength and comradeship which is rather habit forming although I don’t expect non miners to understand that.

Our hearts go out to the families of these poor working men, too proud to sit on the dole, too strong in their skill to give up.

The answer of course is not to walk away from the six or seven large commercial mines we have left, even private ownership isn’t characterized by this accident and method of work, instead we need the reopening of a modern British coal industry, secure in investments and markets. That probably can only be done by the nationalization of the energy industry, with the maximum achievable standards of workers and consumers and community control. Rising gas prices, fuel poverty, the threat posed by nuclear expansion the destruction of land and seascapes by Wind turbines and the endless march of pylons from the sea through the countryside, may soon pose the question of clean coal again. We have to insist that the NUM and the working class drive this agenda and set the conditions in which it will operate.  This tragedy far from being another strap to beat the mining industry with ought to signal a real campaign to develop the coal industry to the highest achievable safety standards available using the cleanest possible technology.

See photos and history of Gleision here in the Mining 2000 section

 

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This year's Big Meeting from around the web

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=36y6K1D9IsY&feature=related
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QPY_NuGnPt0&NR=1
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-C4MsQdzSEw&NR=1
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dDiMMq7QbbE&feature=related
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cc0oCthbNXk&feature=related – Gresford at platform

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rpX090nmVqM – It says “Part 2” but there is NO Part 1
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KT5KQw1Ab0U&feature=related – Bearpark and Esh Colliery Band
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GubShvr3Z4o&feature=related
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Rhnt2bNB-mk&feature=related
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Rhnt2bNB-mk&feature=related – mainly still photographs
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aotFnHIq6x4Eppleton
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ER2Re-4ytN4even more Eppleton (leaving the village)
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WaI3JV0xWI8&feature=relatedBackworth Colliery Band play Gresford at Eppleton in memory of the 1951 disaster
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mTSaRD7slrw
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8hxOVWNswFU – great for Scottish pipes and drums (and, at end, some good jazz)
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BVWjb7JvwAY – Tursdale

Not forgetting

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uH0fmUx4gJc&feature=related – the relaunch of the 1938 Follonsby banner

Thanks to Graeme Atkinson

 

 

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http://www.sunderlandecho.com/news/local/durham_miners_gala_welcomes_rescued_chilean_1_3566284


Durham Miners Gala welcomes rescued Chilean

A wave to the balcony of the County Hotel as the new replica Washington Glebe Lodge banner is paraded at the Big Meeting. It is the first time the Glebe banner has been at the Gala since the centenary year in 1983.

Published on Monday 11 July 2011 11:06

THE new Washington Glebe Lodge banner was paraded before civic dignitaries at this year’s Big Meeting.

Thousands packed into Durham for the annual Miner’s Gala on Saturday.

Special guests at the event included one of the rescued Chilean miners.

Carlos Bugueno smiled and cheered from the County Hotel balcony as he watched the parade.

Originally two of the 33 miners who were trapped underground for more than two months last year were expected to attend, but Carlos Barrios Contreras could not make it because his passport had expired.

Grandmother-of-six Shirley Smyth, 66, of Chester-le-Street, said: “It’s incredible to think what they went through during those months being stuck underground.

“I watched them when they were being pulled out. I think those images will stay with me for a long time.”

Gala organiser Dave Hopper, Durham Miners’ Association general secretary, said: “We welcome Carlos to Durham and it’s a big coup for us to have him here.”



http://www.sunderlandecho.com:80/community/marching_in_unity_at_the_big_meeting_durham_miners_gala_1_3567989

Marching in unity at the Big Meeting – Durham Miners’ Gala

Published on Tuesday 12 July 2011 07:17

THE sound of brass bands, laughter and banter echoed through the streets as the Durham Big Meeting got into full swing on Saturday.

An estimated 70,000 people packed the city, with families flocking from across the country to see the colourful parade of banners and listen to the array of brass bands that paraded through the city.

But while many were there to enjoy themselves, there was a serious undertone to the event, with many unions using it to send out their stark message over Government cuts, redundancies, pensions and education.

Raymond McDermott, of Chester-le-Street, was parading with the health branch of the northern region of Unison.

The 65-year-old, who attends the Gala every year, said that the day had shown that regionally the unions are sticking together.


“With the fight following all the job cuts and everything this shows that we are all here to support each other and that people won’t stand to be pushed around,” he said.

“At the same time it’s great to see so many families here enjoying themselves.

“The atmosphere is fantastic – it always is – and the brass bands are amazing.”

Also among those marching was Dean Smith, who has attended the Big Meeting for the last 20 years and was carrying the Seaham Lodge banner.

It was a particularly poignant day for the 44-year-old, whose father-in-law, ex-miner and former Durham County Council leader Albert Nugent, died last year.

He said: “I will be thinking of my father-in-law today as I carry this banner.

“He worked down the pits and was part of the miners’ strikes, as was my dad and brother. It has been a great day and there are a lot of people here.”

Paul Young, 51, was carrying the New Herrington Lodge banner. He said: “The build-up has been fantastic and there’s a great atmosphere. It’s a really good day.”

Among the parade were seven new banners, including ones from Boldon, Washington Glebe and New Durham.

Tom Bainbridge was walking with the Boldon Lodge banner, which was later blessed at a special service.

He said: “It’s great to see the new banner here and it’s one of the few that has actually got miners on it.

“It’s good to see so many people here and although it’s been a bit slow coming in because of the amount of banners, we’ve had a good day.

“The Gala is really important because it’s our heritage.”

Tom Huntington, 50, joined the parade as he helped to carry the Shotton Lodge banner for the eighth year.

He said: “It’s a great day because I bring my family along, the kids and the grandchildren.

“The Gala is an important part of the heritage and culture of the mining community and it’s important we carry the tradition on.

“Mining is in my blood because all my family were miners.”

Neil Webster, 36, was with the Ryhope Lodge banner.

He added: “Generations and generations of people have been doing this and it’s important that we respect everything they did, especially when you think about all those men who lost their lives down the pits.”

Scott Thompson, 38, of Great Lumley, took his family along to Saturday’s meet.

He said: “I think it’s important that the kids get a chance to see an event like this.

“They have been asking questions about the miners and what it was like when people used to work down the pits.

“There is always a unique atmosphere here and I don’t think this type of event could be held anywhere except for Durham.”

 

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Follonsby Miners Lodge Banner, Heritage and Community Association
The Unveiling of the Wardley Miners Banner of 1938
Saturday 18th June 2011

The unveiling of the new banner went ahead on Saturday, attended by the Deputy Mayor and Mayoress of Gateshead, Councillor Malcolm Brain and Ms Susan Makin, followed by entertainment from the Felling Band and Johnny Handle Tony Cororan and Benny Graham.

A review of the event can be found here: A truly memorable day

A video has been uploaded to YouTube, which includes a short piece with Dave Douglass talking about the history of the banner: Relaunch of Follonsby Miners Banner, Durham Miners Gala, July 2011

 

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New Jobs In Mining.
New Life in Australia

Australian Coal Mining interviews to take place in July.
We are currently working on behalf of a major Australian Mining company who have an urgent requirement for candidates with Underground Coal Mining experience.
The Company is a market leader in underground coal mining services in the world’s largest resource of high quality coking coal, Queensland’s Bowen Basin. The Company always looking for experienced coal miners for 14 live sites on the East Coast of Australia. They offer successful applicants a long term role which makes a rare breed in the competitive world of coal mining.
Very Competitive packages are on offer for experienced Underground Miners with a minimum of 3 years experience.
If you are interested please forward a relevant CV to  Matthew.Steptoe@randstadcpe.com
Minimum of 3 years experience in Underground Mining
Flexibility to relocate
Willing to work on a rotational basis
All candidates must have been active within an underground coal mine within the past 7 years, they will also have to fit all visa restrictions.

 

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Watch an exclusive trailer for Bill Morrison's The Miners' Hymns

US film-maker Bill Morrison's collaboration with Icelandic composer Jóhann Jóhannsson mixes new and archive footage to examine the culture and history of mining around Durham. The film premieres at the Tribeca film festival in April. The soundtrack will be released on 23 May, and the BFI DVD on 20 June.

http://www.guardian.co.uk/film/video/2011/mar/31/miners-hymns-bill-morrison-trailer

 

 

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TAX, PENSIONS AND BENEFIT CHANGES FOR 2011-12

  This is mainly pirated from the CSPA newsletter with some “explanatory” notes from Julian Atkinson
The Chancellor delivered his Budget proposals on 23 March 2011 and confirmed many of the changes which he had previously announced.  The following items will be of particular interest to pensioners.
Value Added Tax rose from 17.5% to 20% from 04 January 2011
The Standard Rate of Insurance Premium Tax rose from 5% to 6% on 04 January 2011.  The Higher rate rose from 17.5% to 20%.
From 11 April 2011, the Basic State Retirement Pension will rise from £97.65 to £102.15 per week for a single pensioner and from £156.15 to £163.35 for a couple.

From 11 April 2011 Additional Pensions will increase in line with the CPI.

The age addition for the over 80's will remain at 25 pence per week.

From 11 April 2011, the Pension Credit Guarantee will increase from £132.60 to £137.35 per week for a single pensioner and from £202.40 to £209.70 per week for a couple.  The capital disregard will remain at £10,000.  The Saving Credit threshold will rise from £98.40 to £103.15 for a single pensioner and from £157.25 to £164.55 for a couple.

The Government has said that it will “protect” the Winter Fuel Payment.  However, we have good reason to believe that the Government intends to revert from £250 to £200 for households with someone at or over the female State Pension Age and from £400 to £300 for households with someone aged 80 or over.  Some “protection”.

There has been no announcement about the Christmas Bonus, so we assume that it will remain at £10.

From 06 April 2011 the basic personal allowance for Income Tax will rise from £6,475 to £7,475.  The personal allowance for someone aged 65 to 74 will rise from £9,490 to £9,940 and for someone aged 75 or more will rise from £9,640 to £10,090. The maximum income a pensioner can have and still get the age-related allowances will rise from £22,900 to £24,000 (but there will be further restrictions for those with incomes above £100,000).
 
The married couple’s allowance (for those aged 75 and over), will rise from £6,965 to £7,295.  The allowance will be subject to an income limit of £24,000 but there will be minimum allowance of £2,800.   The married couple’s allowance is given at the rate of 10%.

The blind person’s allowance will rise from £1,890 to £1,980.

From 11 April 201, Disability benefits will rise in line with the CPI.

The 10% starting rate of Income Tax for savings income will to apply to savings income between £0 and £2,560.  If an individual’s taxable non-savings income is above £2,560, then the 10% savings rate will not be available for savings income.  The basic Income Tax rate of 20% will apply to the first £35,000 (after the personal allowance) of taxable earned income and pensions.  The 40% Income Tax rate will apply to such income above £35,000. The 50% rate will apply to income above £150,000.

The Inheritance Tax allowance will remain at £325,000 for individuals and at £650,000 for married couples and civil partners until 2014/15.
 

The ISA annual investment limit will rise from the current overall limit of £10,200 to £10,680 and the cash limit will rise from £5,100 to £5,340.

The standard rate of Capital Gains Tax will remain at 18% but from 23 June 2010 there has been a new higher rate of 28%.  The higher rate is applicable to higher rate taxpayers.  Disposals before 23 June 2010 will remain liable to the 18% standard rate.  The exemption limit will rise from £10,100 to £10,600

The proposed Landline Duty will be scrapped.

For those still in employment, from 06 April 2011 the Employee National Insurance standard rate contributions will rise from 11% to 12% and the higher earnings rate will rise from 1% to 2%.

Future changes outlined in the budget were:-

Integration of Income Tax and National Insurance Contributions:

  • “The Government will consult in 2011 on the options, stages and timing of reforms to integrate the operation of income tax and NICs.”

 

  • However, “It will maintain the contributory principle and will reflect this in any changes it brings forward. In addition, the Government will not extend NICs to individuals above State Pension Age or to other forms of income such as pensions, savings and dividends.”

Change in Indexation:

  • The Government announced that “from April 2012 the default indexation assumption for all direct taxes including income tax, NICs, inheritance tax, capital gains tax and ISAs will move from the RPI to the CPI. The change will apply for each year from 2012-13 except where there are specific policy commitments to increase these by a different amount.”

 

  • “For the duration of this Parliament the annual increases in the employer NICs threshold, and the age related allowance and other thresholds for older people (including the starting rate limit for savings income, income tax age-related allowances, age-related income limits, married couples allowances and blind persons allowance), will be over-indexed compared to the CPI, and will increase by the equivalent of the RPI.”

State Pension Reform:

  • The DWP will shortly publish a Green Paper consulting on proposals for moving to a single tier pension. But the change is not to apply to existing pensioners.

 

  • The Government will shortly bring forward proposals to for the management of future changes in the State Pension age, including the option of a regular independent review of longevity changes

Income Tax Allowances:

  • “The Chancellor announced that there from April 2012 there would be an increase of £630 (to £8,105) in the basic personal allowance but there was no mention of any similar increase to the personal allowances for those aged 65 or over.

 

Public Sector Pensions:

  • The Government accepts Lord Hutton’s recommendations from the Independent Public Service Pensions Commission as a basis for consultation with public sector workers, trades unions and others: “The Government will set out proposals in the autumn that are affordable, sustainable and fair to both the public sector workforce and the taxpayer.”

 

  • Following a full public consultation by the Treasury “the Government has decided that the appropriate discount rate for calculating unfunded public service pension contribution rates should be based on the long term expectation of Gross Domestic Product (GDP) growth. This will ensure that employment decisions made today take into account the costs passed to future taxpayers on a fair and sustainable basis. The latest OBR forecast for long-term GDP growth is 2.2 per cent above the assumed GDP deflator, equivalent to a discount rate of 2.9 per cent above the Consumer Prices Index (CPI). Given the range of uncertainties inherent in these calculations, the Government believes that a rounded figure should be used. A discount rate of 3 per cent above CPI will therefore be adopted under this methodology for future valuations. The Government proposes to review the level of discount rate every five years, and the methodology every ten years. The Government has confirmed that this change in the discount rate will not lead to an increase in member contribution rates beyond those already announced at Spending Review 2010.”

At present a discount rate of 3.5% is used. This is associated with a method of estimating future expenditure at present day prices. The effect of this change, in response to pressure from Private Pension providers, will be to inflate the supposed liability associated with public sector pensions and thus increase the pressure for further rises in employee costs or worsening of the pension paid.

 

 

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Up to 70 feared dead in Colombian mine blast

Sixteen are killed in what could be one of country's worst mining accidents
  
AMAGA, Colombia - More than 70 Colombian miners were trapped and feared dead Thursday in an overnight coal mine explosion that killed at least 16 miners in what could be one of the country's worst mining accidents.

http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/37755622/ns/world_news-americas/

 

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Striking Mexican Copper miners

This article, in The Tyee - an American news paper, tells readers about miners embattled in a three year dispute over health and safety issues:

http://thetyee.ca/Opinion/2010/06/10/MexicanMiningStrike/

 

 

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Dave Douglass launches Ghost Dancers

Following the launch 'Ghost Dancers' the final part of his trilogy, 'Stardust and Coaldust', Dave Douglass has been making appearances at book fairs and events around the country to discuss his work.

Here Dave talks about Ghost Dancers:
http://www.archive.org/details/DaveDouglass
http://www.archive.org/details/DaveDouglass-GhostDancers-Part2
http://www.archive.org/details/DaveDouglass-GhostDancers-Part3.QASession

A review of 'Geordies Wa Mental' the first part of Dave's trilogy:
Geordies wa Menta pdf

A review of 'Wheels still in spin', the second book in Dave's trilogy:
MinersAdvice reviews: The Wheels still in Spin

 

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Weekly Worker 818 Thursday May 20 2010
http://www.cpgb.org.uk/

Friend, comrade, and occasional sparring partner

Obituary: Peter Heathfield, March 2 1929 - May 4 2010. David Douglass celebrates his life

It came as a great shock to many in the coalfields to hear that Peter Heathfield, the former general secretary of our National Union of Mineworkers, had died.
We were all too well aware he was seriously ill. Four years ago, he was present at the Jones-Green memorial lecture, paying tribute to all those miners who had died as fighters for the NUM. He was painfully thin, and explained that he had a wasting condition. His eyes still sparkled and he was as witty as ever, but Peter was a shadow of his former self. Still, we all hoped against hope he would pull through.
Peter was elected general secretary in January 1984 and took up office just days before the start of the miners’ Great Strike of 1984-85. He was one of the triumvirate - Arthur Scargill, Mick McGahey and Peter Heathfield - and never swerved from his solid loyalty to the union, to the action it had undertaken and to Arthur personally.
He was a Derbyshire miner through and through, who had gone down the pit after leaving school, starting underground work at the Williamthorpe colliery. Like me, Peter had the good fortune of studying on the NUM’s three-year day release course under the direction of Sheffield University’s extramural department. It was a hotbed of the new militancy breaking through the living dead the union had become in the mid-60s.
It was the Derbyshire area of the NUM which fired the first shot in the declaration of war against the old leadership in 1969 with an unofficial rally in London and then a nationwide wildcat strike, which put militancy, and an alternative leadership, on the agenda. Without that movement, the crushing victories for the miners in 1972 and 74 would not have been possible.
In 1966, Peter, who was very active in the Labour Party and its re-emerging left wing, was elected to a full-time NUM post for the first time, became vice-president of the Derbyshire NUM in 1970 and Derbyshire area secretary in 1973. Some said he would be the left’s runner for national president in 1981, while others thought this post was predestined to be Mick’s. As it turned out, the ‘left’, and in the particular the CPGB, threw their support behind the younger Scargill.
In January 1984, Peter was elected general secretary of the NUM, taking over the post from the once dynamic Lawrence Daly, who had been in ill health for some time. Without Peter’s steady hand on the tiller through those stormy days the conduct of the strike and its tenacity may have been much weaker. It was a classical case of ‘Cometh the hour, cometh the man’.
Peter was a most forceful speaker, his body literally bounced on the stage with the power and emotion of his words; his body pulsed, his voice, arms and head like electric, his stomping making many a stage rock. His sweeping gestures flayed alive the scabs and police. I had shared many platforms with Peter over the years - not just for miners’ events, but to mark the anti-apartheid struggle, our opposition to the Vietnam war, our hostility to nuclear weapons. Peter was an old-style guts communist, who saw the workers coming to power through a Labour Party impelled by an independent, militant trade union movement.
He was 100% loyal to the strike, and 100% behind the strategy, which the members imposed on the union, especially over the vexed question of the ballot. Vexed as far as the media and rightwing critics were concerned, that is, not the rank and file. Even now, after his death they still get it wrong, The Guardian commenting in its obituary: “When the Conservative government announced its intention to close 20 pits, Heathfield backed Scargill from the start of the strike in March 1984, and, like his president, rejected a coalfield ballot. Yet everyone who knew Heathfield believed that he harboured inner doubts about Scargill’s strategy” (May 4).
Of course, neither Peter nor Arthur rejected a ballot at all. The national executive made no recommendation on the question, and neither spoke either in support of or against any of the five resolutions on the floor of conference called to debate that very issue. Neither voted for or against any of the propositions (Arthur was in the chair), but why spoil a good folk myth with facts?
Following the strike and the years of confused repositioning and struggles for direction and democracy in the union, he and I often clashed over how to respond to the new situation. How to remain relevant to the rank and file, what we could hold onto and what we had to let go. Peter and Arthur both felt that at pit level we were giving and repositioning too much. I believe they felt we were allowing the National Coal Board strategy of isolating the leadership to work, and we should have shut up shop and thrown away the keys until the NCB was prepared to recognise the union at national level and re-establish nationwide conciliation. On the other hand, we felt they had become remote and unrealistic - making impractical demands of a battle-scarred, exhausted army. Peter and I went toe to toe over the newly installed ‘Doncaster option’ bonus agreement, and later over Hatfield colliery’s own pit payment scheme, which I felt he did not understand and he thought was breaking ranks. Some of this is explored in my current book on the period, Ghost dancers (published by Christie and available through Central Books), I hope sympathetically. Not that any of that broke our friendship or mutual regard and we spent a great deal of time rehashing and reviewing the whole post-strike period afterwards.
The most damning thing in Peter’s life, however, was not the strike, nor even its defeat and the years of declining union power and influence which followed, but the scandalous slander unleashed by the media with their charges of financial irregularity. Worse than that, there were accusations of fiddling and double-dealing for personal gain. Peter, a man of immense pride and self-respect, principled to a fault, was mortally wounded; he never recovered from the insult and injury. The charges were launched by sensational disclosures in the Daily Mirror and by Central Television in 1990.
Actually what they had discovered was an ‘anti-personnel PR bomb’ drawn up by the state’s special ‘counter-insurgency’ forces. It was meant to go ‘boom’ in the final minutes before the expected miners’ victory, rob us of our support among our own ranks and pull the rug on solidarity action across the union movement. As things turned out, it was not needed, since the sellout by the supervisors’ union had tripped our impending victory at the post. But the device, the plot, the scandal was left in the field like an unexploded bomb, for the media to discover by accident. They were too thick to realise what it was they had found - the greatest example of state interference, of state manipulation, in an industrial dispute and the media in the past century - and instead ran it as a ‘fingers in the till’, corrupt union official story.
Most people to this day still do not realise the scale of the state’s set-up of these two men in an effort to break the strike. The NUM appointed an independent inquiry under the chairmanship of Gavin Lightman QC, which cleared both Scargill and Heathfield of all the main accusations. But Heathfield never forgave the NUM NEC for suspending him and Arthur and handing over the enquiry to the QC. He never overcame the impact of that particular kind of scandal. Despite speaking to adoring crowds at many rallies and meetings afterwards, despite being cleared of all charges, despite all the applause and backslapping, the accusation was enough to rob him of something deep and treasured.
He retired from the position of general secretary in 1992, and started a new life with his young partner, Sue Rolstone, having broken up with his first wife, the dynamic Betty, a founder-member of Women against Pit Closures and long-time communist activist, in 1989.
Peter was a thoughtful, intellectual, honest and loyal comrade. He had earned the right to a long and healthy retirement, but sadly he did not see much of that, spending years fighting off the legacy of that fearsome slander. Then to struggle with and finally be struck down by the gradually deteriorating condition he endured was a final and undeserved injustice. Peter was a giant in my book, a leader of the miners who can take his place among the biggest and best in our long history.
Peter’s body in death will be donated to science in the hope of assisting his fellow workers, just as in life it was dedicated to their struggles for justice. As such, there will be no funeral. However, a commemoration will be held at 2pm on June 30 at the Chesterfield Miners’ Welfare, Chester Street, Chesterfield S40 IDL.
Our sympathy goes out to Sue and his children, to Peter’s family, friends and comrades. A great number of leading members of the socialist, communist and trade union movement are expected to give orations or just be present at the commemoration.

 

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It is with great sadness that we've just discovered the death of former General Secretary of the NUM Peter Heathfield.
Peter was of course the formidable leader of the miners in 1984/5 strike together with Arthur Scargill. Peter and Arthur were the subject of a state smear advanced by The Mirror and Central TV . All the charges made in the smear were proved to be totally false, but they had a deep impact on Peter who was deeply wounded by them.  The last five or six years he has struggled with a degenerating condition, which he refused to give into.
We have no details of funeral arrangements as yet but will post them as soon as we get them. Our deepest sympathy goes out to Peter and his family.

 

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Victor Lindsay : Obituary

Published in the DoncasterToday.co.uk on 29 April 2010 (Distributed in Doncaster)

Victor died peacefully at his home on 26th April 2010, aged 72 years. Leaving devoted wife Val, daughters Carol, Christine, Angela, Elaine and Julie, sons-in-law Kevin, David, Tony, Garry and Mick, grandchildren Craig, Claire, Donna, Arron, Stevie, Lindsay and Ryan, great grandchildren Curtis, Charley, Kai and Callum.
Will be sadly missed.

Funeral service to take place on Wednesday 5th May 2010 at
St. Luke's Church, Rossington at 2.00 p.m. followed by interment at Wadworth Lane Cemetery, Rossington at 2.45 p.m.
Family flowers only please. Donations if desired may be sent to
The Sheffield Institute Foundation for Motor Neurone Disease.
C/o W.E. Pinder & Son, 19 Thorne Road, Bawtry, Doncaster,
DN10 6QL.
Enquiries tel: 01302 710285

 

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May Day 2010

We took part in 3 events this weekend; South Tyneside May Day social on  Friday, Tyne & Wear May Day march and rally on Saturday, and DIY Aye  Festival on Saturday.

We have sold out of our batch of  'Maggie, Hurry and Die' T-shirts already!) and signed up 2 new members.

On Friday, Dave D spoke about his new book at the South Tyneside May Day  social alongside an NESSN/NUT speaker and Unison speaker. We had a stall there.

On Saturday we marched with the Tyne & Wear IWW banner through Newcastle to the rally in Exhibition park, where we had another stall, which was then moved to the DIY Aye Festival in the afternoon.

The meeting we put on at DIY aye was well attended, with 2 good guest speakers from RMT and a Unite/BA worker, as well as Dave D speaking on behalf of IWW. There was an open discussion, which went so well people carried on well after the meeting finished.

Later in the evening we hosted a folk and poetry evening which got the crowd singing along and demanding a few encores

Click the link below to see a You Tube video showing the fun had at the Tyne & Wear May Day social evening.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ij5Axn6EzBg

 

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From trade union comrades in the USA

Feds Cite Operator Alpha for Mine Inundation

Feds cite operator Alpha for inundation that trapped 7 miners for nearly 24 hours

By TIM HUBER AP Business Writer

CHARLESTON, W.Va. January 14, 2010 (AP) The Associated Press

Coal producer Alpha Natural Resources has been cited for safety violations that federal investigators say contributed to a flood that trapped seven men in an underground West Virginia mine last year.

While the men walked out of Alpha's Alma A Mine unharmed after nearly 24 hours, Mine Safety and Health Administration director Joe Main said they were lucky to survive.

"The mine operator's failure to properly maintain underground diversion systems and escapeways could just as easily have ended in tragedy," Main said in a statement. "This accident underscores the need for mine operators to always maintain escapeways so they are available for use by miners when they need them."

Rick Nida, a spokesman for Abingdon, Va.-based Alpha, noted the miners were not injured and that the area was devastated by heavy rain the day of the accident.

"We think the miners and the others followed well-established safety protocols and safety procedures," Nida said. "We haven't yet reviewed fully that MSHA report and so we'll reserve our right to comment later."

Underground coal mines are required to keep primary and secondary escape routes isolated so miners can exit if there is an accident. The danger of compromised escape routes was underscored by a fatal 2006 fire at another West Virginia mine, which prompted sweeping new safety requirements.

Heavy rain inundated southern West Virginia on May 9, which MSHA determined caused the Mingo County mine to flood after debris, mud and rock blocked culverts at its entrances. The agency cited Alpha for failing to maintain underground diversion systems and escape routes at the mine.

It is unclear whether MSHA has decided how much to fine Alpha and a spokeswoman did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

MSHA said water levels reached 9 feet in some parts of the mine, forcing the trapped men to seek refuge on high ground until rescue crews pumped out the mine.

Investigators blamed Alpha for not monitoring and maintaining diversion ditches designed to move water from mine entrances and for failing to monitor areas where water entered the mine. According to MSHA's investigation report, Alpha has corrected the problems.

 

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MALTBY NUM BRANCH

YORKSHIRE AREA

25th ANNIVERSARY of the MINERS STRIKE

MALTBY PROGRESSIVE CLUB

SATURDAY 13th FEBRUARY 2010 at 7 PM

SPEAKERS TO INCLUDE : ARTHUR SCARGILL
(NUM HONARARY PRESIDENT), IAN LAVERY (NUM
NATIONAL PRESIDENT), KEN CAPSTICK (ex NUM
YORKSHIRE AREA VICE PRESIDENT)  

Entertainment by the GUTTERBAND

FOR TICKETS CONTACT THE MALTBY NUM
BRANCH OFFICE ON 01709 810132
Or
STEVE MACE (DELEGATE) ON 07775931523
NICK HARRIS(SECRETARY) ON 07967517136

 

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A story of coal and conflict

Monday 28 December 2009

Vicki Smith

It was a slap heard all round the coalfields. Cordelia Ruth Tucker, wearing the fluorescent striped shirt of a miner, strode past West Virginia state troopers and into a stream of marchers protesting against mountain-top removal mining to deliver an audible smack.

The Rock Creek woman isn't talking as she awaits trial on a battery charge. Her neighbour, environmental activist Judy Bonds, says that she was on the receiving end of the slap.

And Bonds fears that more blows will follow as the fight escalates over mountain-top removal, the uniquely Appalachian form of strip mining that involves blowing tops off mountains and dumping the rubble in valleys.

For nearly a decade, environmentalists and the mining industry battled in courtrooms and the Capitol. Arrests were unheard of.

But this year, as mountain-top removal has drawn more scrutiny from regulators, policy-makers and the public, the activists' strategy changed.

There have been nearly 100 arrests in 20 protests, most involving trespassing. Led by a new group called Climate Ground Zero, the activists have chained themselves to giant dump trucks, scaled 80-foot trees to stop blasting and paddled into a nine-million-gallon sludge pond. They've blocked roads, hung banners and staged sit-ins.

Virginia-based Massey Energy claims that a single three-and-a-half-hour occupation at Progress Coal Co in Twilight cost the company $300,000.

Two environmentalists pleaded no contest to battery after that incident for trying to push past a miner and climb a 20-storey earth-moving crane.

 

Read the rest of this article here:
http://www.morningstaronline.co.uk/index.php/news/content/view/full/84950

 

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Death of a Hatfield Main NUM

Union stalwart and Doncaster coalfield

Character Pat Bennet

 

We are greatly saddened by the death on Friday 20 th November of Pat Bennet. Pat was a dearly treasured Hatfield miner and member of the Dunscroft / Stainforth / Hatfield community. His funeral took place on Wed 25 th November in a packed Hatfield Parish church filled to capacity, by friends and neighbours, comrades and marra's. As the coffin was brought in the stirring strains of the international miners anthem The Miners Lifeguard echoed round the church.

Pat Bennet, Eggy Palmer, Ann Scargill, Dave Douglass

 

  Miners life is like a sailors, board a ship to sail the waves

  Constant dangers always facing

  Yet he ventures, still being brave.

  Watch the rocks, there falling daily

  Careless miners always fail

  Keep your hands upon your wages

  Keep your eyes upon the scale

  Union Miners!

  Stand together

  Do not heed the owner's tale

  Keep your hands upon your wages

  Keep your eyes upon the scale.

 

The old Hatfield NUM Branch banner was displayed in the heart of the Church, next to where the coffin was laid. Upon the coffin, Pats, beloved flip flops for which he had become famed over recent years as he led a gang of kids to parks, and walks, and shops.

One of Pat's brothers Tony gave a short, deeply moving oration, touching on Pats enormous character and sense of fun and family. Dave Douglass's powerful oration was followed by Pats little Granddaughter Georgina reading a moving little poem, with great heroism and self-control assisted by Pat's daughter Lisa.

In keeping with our mining traditions as Tony struggled to read his statement, Eggy Palmer who has been a rock for the whole family during this terrible period, stood by his side with his arm round his shoulder.

David Douglass, the long running Delegate and Secretary delivered the main oration at Hatfield and strike leader. Pat greatly admired Dave and was a passionate supporter of the branch.

This was Dave's delivery:-

Despite the tragic circumstances that bring us here, it is an honour to be able to come up and say a few words in memory of Pat and everything he meant to us as miners, trade unionists, comrades and mates.

I suspected I'd have difficulty, saying these few words, but then I think what would Pat do, if he were at a funeral of a dear friend.

Pat would have been out there telling the tale, cracking jokes, knocking people about, mindful of the loss, but full of the joy of being alive. And That was Pat,

 

Ill be brief…though

 

I can just here Pat saying, Hey-up. Yi were never brief when I was at your meetings.

 

Pat was and is an inspiration

He took life with two hands, and revelled in it, intervened into life, enjoyed life,

A rock n roller, jack the lad, irrepressible comic and lover of the crack.. though he didn't always get the story right mind. his version was often better than the original.

 

There are not many diamonds in coalmines, but Pat was one.

 

I can't think of any situation, nomatter how dangerous, fraught, or charged where Pat didn't take it on with a smile on his face and an optimism which radiated to everyone round him.

 

In your life, you meet thousands of people maybe hundreds of thousands of people who drift in and out and you scarce remember most of them .But now and again, someone enters your life, who is so full of character and charisma, uniquely themselves. that they leave an indelible mark on your life too, That was Pat,

 

How many people in Doncaster or the South Yorkshire coalfield as a whole never heard of Pat Bennet or couldn't come up and tell you of some magic moment or memorable event they shared with him?

 

Like his card game in the middle of the Orgreave riot, with a good hand he refused to yield as the cavalry and riot shields bore down on them, waited until everyone else threw their hands in and took off, before grabbing up the much prised cash and taken off with the horses literally breathing down his neck.

 

It would be scarcely possible to remember Pat without remembering the great strike of 84/5. a strike in which Pat and Maggie, and many people in this room stood their ground, in the teeth of adversary , fighting not for some intangible idealistic goal, as some have suggested, but the very real and pragmatic values of a living community, brotherhood and sisterhood, comradeship, the right not just to earn a living but to do so with some dignity, with some control on the work and direction of your own skills and initiative. To defend the ability of wa union to intervene into life and challenge the status quo, challenge the rich and powerful and put the stamp of working people on the world we live in. Maggie was one of the original founders of Women Against Pit closures, back in 83 the year before the great strike. That was a fight Pat and many people here threw themselves into body and soul, but Pat was one a handful of men, who were prepared to stake everything on the line, risking life and liberty, in resistance to the armed boys in black who came to make us accept Thatcher's dictates. We can't discuss that here, but I will never forget that unswerving loyalty and heroism. It was worth a fight, look at where we are now, look at the losses we as a class and as a people have faced, the loss of community, of trust, of mutual respect, the cancer of unemployment, hopelessness, anti social crime, and the very fabric the miners generation and generation painfully put together. We were right to fight. And by God from time to time the Police knew they bitten off more than could chew when they came across Pat in full flight…I remember my famous motorway blockade, and them dragging drivers from their cars, and then coming upon Pat, who skittled a whole squadron of them, and them asking “Who the hell is that ?” I don't think he even took the tab out of his mouth. You have just, met the met they used to boast, well they'd just met Pat Bennet.

 

There is much that could be said about Pats contribution and much will be said but not here..Pat stood with his mates, against police dogs, riot shields, truncheons and cavalry charges, for twelve months hard struggle

 

ITS TRUE TO SAY Pat wasn't always lucky….at times he was extremely unlucky, Set the perilous task of extracting the face side arch support of the retreat mined roadway to allow the machine to cut by, we had warned the management that this being a retreat face the wieght would have come on and sunk the great iron leg of the arch into the floor. Pat had sought to pull it out by wrapping a chain around it, and connecting it to a hydraulic ram set on pull back. An irresistible force meeting an unmovable object, that's the ram by the way not Pat,

 

So Pat takes cover round a corner while the metal and chain strain against each other, the pit being the pit, and Pat's luck being Pat's luck, the steel link breaks, and flies down the tunnel and round the corner where it smashes into Pats jaw and buries itself deep into his jawbone smashing it in the process. There are two things I remember most about this, three things if we recall we couldn't give him morphia because it was a head injury, one was that in the middle of the operation the Hatfield Management demanded the link back, because they knew we wanted it for evidence, even accusing us of stealing it. seriously….and the second thing is that being in indescribably agony Pat had swore blue murder and f…n and blinded all an sundry as well you might. We are told on his recovery; he bought all the nurses a box of roses for having sworn at them, Maggie responded that he'd been swearing at her for years and never bought her any boxes of roses.

 

Pat was a body and soul union man, he believed in the miners union in the way some people hold religion or nationality, his union was his faith….he was following the strike elected to the position of the union committee, although Pat never did get the nuances of Industrial relations and conciliation, Red faced and banging on the undermanagers desk with his huge fist…get up that pit lane and lets sort this out…

He had demanded and the undermanager to his credit, leapt from behind his desk and they marched off the pit lane, intent on some rough negotiations.

 

There were many such negotiations after the strike as the weight came on against the miners and our union.

 

In the pits, there is one quality prised above all others,

a mans underground worth which gives value to his surface self….that quality is loyalty. You need to know that your marra is there watching your back, without having to look, your life is in his hands, Pat had the quality in great measure, indeed Pat never did anything by halves, of all the men in that Union branch, in this community, at that pit , during strikes, or on the street Pat was one of the loyalist men I ever knew.

 

Our movement and this community can ill afford to loose a man like Pat Bennet, there are not enough Pat Bennets in the world, there is a huge gap where this man, wor marra, wa comrade and friend was, he will be greatly missed, never forgotten.

 

In conclusion someone once said, ask not for whom that bell tolls, it tolls for thee! and the truth is, Pat just caught an earlier draw, we'll all be riding soon, so in the meantime, we should appreciate life in the way that Pat valued it, and intervened into it, and that perhaps is his most lasting inspiration to us all.

 

 

 

Following the service and the burial at Hatfield Woodhouse cemetery, a packed reception was held at the Broadway Hotel with all Pat's family and friends. Many a yarn was told and good joke enjoyed, the whole thing was so touching, deep, and honest, Pat would have hated to miss it, though in a sense of course, he didn't. He will always be in our hearts.

 

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Review your claim

We think nthis may be of interest to our readers who have nothing to loose, they simply look at the case and see if it could have achieved more. If it couldnt nothing lost, if it could you get a boost in your comp, and loose nothing

Have you already claimed for Vibration White Finger (VWF) and/or Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD)? If you have you can review your claim today. Your solicitor may have under settled your case without you knowing it and you may be owed more money and further compensation You may be able to get the original amount you were entitled to and possible additional compensation if the solicitor who originally represented you was negligent. You pay nothing, not a single penny on a No Win-No Fee basis and you will receive 100% of your claim. Just contact The Greenway Group NOW on 0800 012 6030 and they will process your claim for you. Posthumous claims on behalf of deceased miners will also be reviewed. How and why can you do this now? The work that solicitors have done under the mineworkers' compensation scheme has attracted the attention of press, parliament and the public ever since details of wrong doing began to emerge. The debate has focused on two controversies - Under settled claims and The millions of pounds that some solicitors have earned from the deductions made from miners' compensation.

Telephone 0800 012 6030
www.rippedoffminers.co.uk

 

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NUM National Executive Committee Elections –

Yorkshire Area Aug 2009

 

Separating the pillock from the politics and the principles.

 

By David Douglass. NUM

 

 

Any full member who received his voting paper and the candidates election statements through the post this week, will be hard pressed to see behind the

venom and the flem what's really going on here.

 

The principle contestant in this election isnt on the ballot paper, for this election is actually about whether Arthur Scargill continues to exert huge influence in this union and is able to manipulate events, policies and direction or his control and influence should be curtained. It is also, about whether he will continue to have any position in the future or not. You will not find anything about this on the election material but at base, this is what the whole controversy and court cases have been about. This why we are having another NEC election at great financial and social cost to the union. By the way, the case against the union and its rules under which we conducted the last set of elections, and are now ruled unlawful; was taken by Arthur Scargill with the support of Ken Capstick. It was Arthur who drew up these rules. Now, when out of office considers unfair, which he deemed perfectly fair when in office. His defence of this slight of hand movement in the court was that ‘two wrong don't make a right'.

 

When Arthur reached 65, he should in accordance with rule have retired. Instead, he imposed, with the help of some well-placed Yorkshire Area Officials of the union, a new rulebook, on the whole union. It allowed him to stay on until he was 75. Allowed him to earn consultancy fees, and take on a role in the union as ‘honorary president'.

In order to impose the new rules and make them stick the most extraordinary misuse of power took place involving the swinging of national votes and conferences by use of non-existing branches and even non-existing areas, and the use of limited members votes. This latter included using the votes of dead miners, or their widows, non-members, and in any case members who had no idea that their votes were being cast at the discretion of Arthur in support of rules and policies he himself favoured but the bulk of the union didn't. The union was wracked with internal struggles between Arthur's bureaucratic supporters and the democratic branches and areas.

 

The election of Chris Kitchen marked the end of this period. The Limited member's votes were no longer to be used in this undemocratic fashion. The non-existent branches were ruled as non-existent. National conferences would no longer be manipulated by hundreds of votes cast by a single national official from a non-existent National Office Branch.

 

It also means that Arthur whose contract ends in three years time will finally have his hand taken off the levers of power and his voice from the ear holes of those in office. He does not like any of that.

 

A counter attack has been launched by the Maltby branch, using Steve Mace as effectively Arthur's champion. The intention of Steve's challenge is to move Chris from office as General Secretary of the Union , Yorkshire area secretary and NEC member. This was done by firstly a challenge to the TU commissioner that the rules, which required 30% of the nominations from branches to stand, were unfair, that they stopped him standing for the NEC. This challenge was supported and argued for by the man who actually introduced those rules, Arthur Scargill. He introduced those rules to the effect that they stopped ME standing for the NEC on two occasions, a number of people think that's what they were designed to do. Now Arthur comes to court to argue that his rules are unfair. No problem there they were unfair and are unfair so they have to be changed. This is what has caused the re-election. Incidentally, he also argued that the ‘rotten borough' Area Office Branch that was a pure fiction and bureaucratic device should be recognised as legal. The commissioner chose not to do that, although Arthur is appealing on dubious ‘points of law' on this issue. At the bottom of this manoeuvre is an attempt to create a non-working members branch, which will be bigger than the rest of the union, and be under his political and personal control with card votes to swing and manipulate conference. This is a goal which runs completely against the thrust of Steve's election address and one wonders if he is aware what the master plan is .

 

It's a fact that the bulk of the union rules we live under are the rules which Arthur introduced and we opposed at the time as unfair, but were over-ruled by him and his supporters.

He brought in bi-annual conferences, which meant we could now only have a conference every two years, and limited the number of rules we could change every two years. So the legacy Chris has inherited is one he was left by Arthur and his comrades. Now Arthur and his supporters in the shape of Ken Capstick and Steve Mace run for the NEC in support of Arthur, on the basis that Arthur's own rules are unfair! Well we can agree on that, but the fault isnt and never has been Chris Kitchen's. It's the fault of the man they are running in support of! It's a conundrum only Arthur could create.

 

Let us be right, the arguments which Steve Mace (nominee from the Maltby Branch) puts forward in his election address are sound as a pound. In principle, there is nothing wrong with the demands he makes and we should all take steps to change the rules to ensure they are put right. This has nothing to do with being elected to the NEC though and everything to do with submitting rule changes which will set things right. What is illegitimate is the suggestion that electing Steve or anyone else for that matter to the NEC can change some of the ongoing injustices in the industry. The MPS (Mineworkers Pension Scheme) government rip off billions of pounds from the fund surpluses cannot be resolved by a change on the NEC of the NUM. The NUM doesn't have and never has had a majority on the MPS Pension Fund committee, it is also not allowed by law to mandate its members who ARE representatives on that body. The union's campaign against the government rip off is high profile and on record there is nothing we haven't done on this matter that we could have done and neither Steve nor none of the other candidates can suggest what action we could take to win justice. I personally favour kidnapping and shooting the government spokespersons responsible for the robbery of the miner's money, but you couldn't really run as an MPS trustee on that basis. Likewise the election of Steve to the NEC will not ensure that Hatfield Main Colliery, adopt the same principle on sick leave as that enjoyed by Maltby and Kellingley collieries which are owned by separate companies and were transferred under TUPE and protected agreements, whereas Hatfield closed, and broke the protection. Unless Steve will campaign for Area Wide Strike Action across the coalfield to win parity at Hatfield. A demand we would of course support him on, but he has no mandate to offer.

 

In fact, it is my opinion that a defeat for Chris Kitchen will lead directly to the rules staying as they are with the complained of impediments and going back to the even worse position we were in before Chris got elected. The fact is Arthur's team see Chris and his supporters as a block to their control of the union, that's why they want him out. Steve's complaints are quite legitimate, Arthurs use of them and him are not.

 

Lets be clear, we have nothing whatever against Steve Mace who seems a genuine hard working union miner. He may be impervious of the politics which sit beneath the surface of inter union battles. His demands are in many cases sound enough, lets exam them, and suggest some solutions.

 

Firstly, Steve declares that he is the only working miner in the election, but then is running in tandem with Ken Capstick who is likewise not a working miner. Ken has a long and proud record of accomplishment in this union and he is a close comrade and friend of mine and has been for most of my life in the union. I admire and respect Ken. This fact alone (no not that I happen to like Ken , but his role and commitment) and the fact that he is editor of The Miner surely give him the right to run for the NEC even though he isnt a working miner at this time ? If you support Steve's argument, you cant vote for his running mate Ken can you ? Yorkshire has a full time Area Secretary, Chris Kitchen, if you're a full time area union official obviously you can't be down the pit at the same time. It would be slightly mad not to allow your Area General Secretary to run for one of the two positions on the NEC, so Chris too must surely be entitled to run for this committee. Yes, Steve is right, it is utterly wrong that not a single working miner sits on the NEC and that situation ought to be resolved by rule change to ensure working miners do have positions on the NEC. Areas, which have working miners and mines, must ensure that half of the available seats are taken by working miners from the coalfield they work in. That can only be done by rule change, Steve and Maltby can do that now, regardless of the NEC elections I'm sure every working branch would vote for it.

 

The problem is, we only have five or six mines spread over four areas. At the same time, we have areas, which have no mines but an army of retired and limited members and their dependants who need the services of the union. Either you stop these areas having representatives on the NEC or you greatly restrict their numbers against areas with working miners. This too can only be resolved by conference and rule change. Electing Steve would of course put one working miner on the NEC but it wouldn't resolve the principle. Only rule change can do that and again, Steve's branch or any other can put that forward.

 

Finally, Steve turns to the question of official's salaries. This is something we at Hatfield fought hard for thirty plus years. The principle should not be making salaries equivalent to senior directors of the NCB, as it was in Arthur's day, nor should it be equivalent to MPs salaries as it is now. Officials should be paid no more than the average earnings in the area they represent, or equivalent to working areas in the case of areas without working miners. This can only be resolved by rule change and national conference decisions. It cannot be resolved by simply electing someone onto the NEC. If the issue is a principle, and it is, it must be resolved through the decision making bodies of the union as a whole, it cannot be resolved by electing someone to NEC, the NEC does not make these rules, conference does, although the NEC can propose them too. It is far more likely the rule change required will come from Branches, through Areas to Conference.

 

These issues are issues we would campaign alongside Steve on, through area and national conference. At this time, because of the underlying political agenda we could not however call for a vote for him. Hatfield Main Branch nominated Chris Kitchen and Dave Hatfield the current branch secretary at Hatfield to the NEC and has called for all our members to vote for them. We consider Steve to be a sincere and loyal member of this union and worthy of respect, as we do all the candidates in this election. Let us debate these issues up front and out in the open and also talk about the history and agenda's which underpin them. That is the way of a democratic union something which we at Hatfield have fought for since our inception as a branch way back in 1918.

 

David Douglass full NUM member these last 42 years and former, EC member and Branch Official for 26 years at Hatfield.

 

 

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Worker-intellectual who fell prey to the right
David Douglass looks back at the life of Lawrence Daly:
October 20 1924-May 23 2009

Weekly Worker Jul 3rd 2009
http://www.cpgb.org.uk/worker/776/workerint.php

 

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Mental !!!

New from ChristieBooks
Published May 1st 2009

First Launch of The Wheels Still In Spin, Thursday 7th May,
8-30 pm The Broadway, Broadway, Dunscroft. Doncaster

Review pdf

 

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