The National Union of Mineworkers has announced that 549 miners from Kellingley Colliery will receive eight weeks of back pay.
The 549 miners are former employees at what was once the largest deep pit in Europe, Kellingley Colliery, known affectionately to those who laboured beneath the surface as the ‘Big K’. After centuries of coal production the pit closed and work ceased in December 2015, bringing with it the end of an era as the last deep pit in the UK.
The dispute was raised by the NUM after it came to light that the miners at the North Yorkshire pit received smaller pay-outs than miners who had previously worked at Thoresby Colliery in Nottinghamshire, which closed in July 2015.
The NUM successfully argued that as Thoresby and Kellingley were closed just months apart from each other and were so similar in their operation, that the pay-outs should have been the same. Following the closure of Thoresby Colliery, miners were granted a “protective award” when the owners of the mine, UK Coal, along with the government accepted that the mine had been closed without correct consultation with the men who worked there.
At an industrial tribunal held in Sheffield, NUM representatives successfully argued that the same circumstances applied to both mines. Despite this, there was no agreement for the provision of financial support for the soon to be ex-miners of Kellingley Colliery.
However, this small victory for the NUM and the 549 ex-miners of Kellingley is somewhat bittersweet. Workers from the North Yorkshire mine were members of the National Union of Mineworkers, based in Yorkshire, whilst those from Thoresby had been members of the breakaway Union of Democratic Miners. Following the decision, NUM Secretary Chris Kitchen accused ministers of wasting tax payers’ money in forcing the 549 miners to fight for something that they should have been entitled to. Commenting on the case, Kitchen said: “We’re happy that we won but we’re disappointed that we had to fight for it, given that the UDM didn’t have to”.
This sentiment was supported by Yvette Cooper, Labour MP for Normanton, Pontefract and Castleford, who said: “This tribunal judgement proves that the government’s decision to deny the Kellingley miners the same support as the Thoresby miners was an outrage and a betrayal of the Yorkshire miners who kept working until the very end.”
Kitchen was also keen to point out the role played by government ministers following the closure of Kellingley. Revelations from minsters’ letters showed that the government allowed the Kellingley case to be funded using money recovered from the liquidation of the mine’s former owner, UK Coal. He said: “The irony was that Thoresby was losing money and Kellingley was making money. They used the money that the Kellingley men earned for them against those same workers”.
Whilst this additional payment will come as welcome news to the 549 miners, it will do little to heal the scars of an area when hundreds found their way of life brought to an abrupt end by the closure of the mines.
Jordans Solicitors has a department working with ex coal miners looking into their Vibration White Finger claims as it has come to light that many miners missed out on £1000’s. If you’re an ex miner and think you may have a claim, contact a member of our VWF team free on 03303 001103.