Hope not hate special supplement for Durham Miners' Gala 13 July 2013
Durham Miners Demand Banner Back from Stadium of Light.
Burying the future
Bulgarian coal miners rally to defend their jobs.
More bad news for Yorkshire Mining Industry
Follonsby Miners Lodge Banner outing
The Scargill Dacha Debacle
TRAX FM Adaptation of Dave Douglass' book, 'The Wheel's Still In Spin'
Government wastes clean coal technology development
James May: Rebel with the megaphone voice
Disgraceful, Short-sighted, and Stupid.
Justice demanded for miners’ arrested in 1984-85
New and Lethal Attack on Coal Power Energy Generation
Sad day for miners
The Morning Star has come unstuck with its uncritical support for the ANC,
The Miners Next Step
David Guy, president of the Durham Miners Association (DMA)
Madrid turned out in massive numbers to welcome the miners
Yorkshire Area Agent / General Secretary
Sad loss of Martin Jenkinson
Withdrawal of News Views and Updates, comment on:-
Representatives of the Spanish Miners’ Solidarity Committee
Yorkshire Area NEC elections 2012
Yorkshire Area lowers members subs !
Scargill Wars….the saga continues
Research into the events at Orgreave
Durham Mining Museum
Carbon Capture, Hatfield Main and Clean Coal Technologies
Read 'The Miners' Heritage:
This year's Big Meeting - Links from around the web
Reports from the 2011 Big Meeting
Follonsby Miners Lodge Banner, Heritage and
New Jobs In Mining.
New Life in Australia
The Miners' Hymns
TAX, PENSIONS AND BENEFIT CHANGES FOR 2011-12
Up to 70 feared dead in Colombian mine blast
Striking Mexican Copper miners
Dave Douglass talks about 'Ghost Dancers'
Obituary: Peter Heathfield, March 2 1929 - May 4 2010.
Announcement of death of former General Secretary of the NUM .
May Day 2010
Feds Cite Operator Alpha for Mine Inundation
A story of coal and conflict -
NUM National Executive Committee Elections – Yorkshire Area Aug 2009
Worker-intellectual who fell prey to the right
Launch of Dave's new book 'The Wheels Still in Spin'
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".
Providing a positive antidote to hate and intolerance
Durham Miners Demand Banner Back from Stadium of Light.
Burying the future
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.
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.
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.
More Bad News for Yorkshire Coal Industry
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.
First thing, sign this spanish peitition against spanish pit closures and in support of the spanish miners.
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.
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.
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.
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:
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).
Disgraceful, Short-sighted, and Stupid.
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?
Justice demanded for miners’ arrested in 1984-85
Justice demanded for miners’ arrested in 1984-85
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.
WE RECORD THE DEATH OF OUR COMRADE AND FELLOW HATFIELD MAIN MINER
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.
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 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.
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.
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
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!
The Miners Next Step
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.
we comend these proposals to the miners.
The Miners Next Step
A consultative proposal for NUM national rule revision
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.)
Rule change proposals to Rules; Model Rules;
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 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.
NATIONAL EXECUTIVE COMMITTEE
Delete all in (9.A clause (iv) and replace with
Delete rule 9.e.
Addend rule 9.F. on the third line to include the words ‘branch or’ and read
National Officials- Preamble
The last reported membership figures at the bi-annual conference of 2012
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’.
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”
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:-
14. ELECTION OF NATIONAL OFFICIALS
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.)
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.
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.
15. Removal of National Officials
Delete all after
20. ELECTION AND REMOVAL OF AREA OFFICIALS/AGENTS
Delete all after the existing word “Branches” beginning “the total” to the end of the paragraph.
Delete all after the end of sentence
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.
21. AREA OFFICIALS /AGENTS SALARIES
25. INDUSTRIAL ACTION
‘no other body or individual’ in the first line
Conference and/or the NEC shall…etc
Delete ‘The NEC’ on the first line
29. DISCIPLINARY PROCEDURE
(Except as proscribed in Rule 29.H following)
Addition of two clauses
(iii) Any member subject to an appeal or charge before the Disciplinary
(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.
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
9. APPOINTMENT OF DELEGATES
Delete ‘twenty five’ and replace with Twenty,
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
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.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org
The details of David's funeral are as follows. Please pass on to any contacts:
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."
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.
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.
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.
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.
Withdrawal of News Views and Updates, comment on:-
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.
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.
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.
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.
Notice sent to Spanish comrades.
Yorkshire Area NEC Elections
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.
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.
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)
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.
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.
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?
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
Now THAT’S an NEC election statement.
Yorkshire Area lowers members subs !
The Area Officials and NUM Council of the Yorkshire Area are to be heartily congratulated for
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’.
Scargill Wars….the saga continues
Recent reports suggest Arthur Scargill had ‘won’ £12000 damages against the NUM for loss of expenses.
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.
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.
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.
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:
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: email@example.com
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.
Carbon Capture, Hatfield Main and Clean Coal Technologies
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
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
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.
Read 'The Miners' Heritage:
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.
Available for download in pdf format from The Durham Aged Mineworkers Homes Assciation web site:
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.
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 ?
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.
This year's Big Meeting from around the web
Thanks to Graeme Atkinson
Follonsby Miners Lodge Banner, Heritage and
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
New Jobs In Mining.
Australian Coal Mining interviews to take place in July.
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.
TAX, PENSIONS AND BENEFIT CHANGES FOR 2011-12
This is mainly pirated from the CSPA newsletter with some “explanatory” notes from Julian Atkinson
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 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:
Change in Indexation:
State Pension Reform:
Income Tax Allowances:
Public Sector Pensions:
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.
Up to 70 feared dead in Colombian mine blast
Striking Mexican Copper miners
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:
A review of 'Geordies Wa Mental' the first part of Dave's trilogy:
Weekly Worker 818 Thursday May 20 2010
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.
It is with great sadness that we've just discovered the death of former General Secretary of the NUM Peter Heathfield.
Victor Lindsay : ObituaryPublished 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.
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.
Click the link below to see a You Tube video showing the fun had at the Tyne & Wear May Day social evening.
From trade union comrades in the USA
MALTBY NUM BRANCH
A story of coal and conflict
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.
Read the rest of this article here:
Death of a Hatfield Main NUM
Union stalwart and Doncaster coalfield
Character Pat Bennet
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
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.
Review your claim
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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
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.
Worker-intellectual who fell prey to the right
Weekly Worker Jul 3rd 2009