Coal miners set to strike

MINERS are pressing ahead with a ballot which could plunge Britain's biggest mining company into the country's first coal strike for 15 years.

The Nottingham-based Union of Democratic Mine-workers, the biggest union at RJB Mining, is sending out ballot papers tomorrow. It is urging its 3,000 members to vote for a strike from 20 February. The dispute is over pay rates that RJB imposed at the beginning of this month. Members have until 12 February to return their votes.

"The sensible thing would be for [RJB management] to talk to us," said Michael Stevens, general secretary of the UDM. "We were very close to a deal on restructuring the wages. But they haven't talked to us in three weeks."

A strike could curtail output from half of the company's deep mines, which account for about 80 per cent of the coal it produces every year. Coal met 18 per cent of the country's electricity requirement in 1997, down from 20 per cent the previous year.

RJB has asked its 6,800 miners to sign an opt-out clause from the European Union's Working Time Directive, which sets a 48-hour limit to the working week.

The company says this is for flexibility, but the miners argue that it is a tactic to keep the wage bill low and say they are being put under unfair pressure to sign.

Miners are furious that RJB's chief executive, Richard Budge, received a pounds 224,460 bonus as part of his pounds 610,000 pay package for 1997 - despite a drop in company profits.

Shares in RJB fell to a record low of 47.5p last year but have risen by a third since the company secured further long-term contracts from the electricity industry. The contracts were part of a complex deal masterminded by the Government, which is supposed to give consumers cheaper electricity and RJB's miners some form of job guarantee.

But the UDM, which began talks in May 1998 over a new contract for its workers, is frustrated that it has yet to secure an agreement with the company over a pay package. Instead, the company imposed a plan beginning in the first week of January that the union claims will pay annual increases of one percentage point below the UK's rate of inflation.

RJB denied that claim, saying that the total pay package will keep wages growing faster than the rate of inflation.

The National Union of Mineworkers, which represents a large part of the remainder of RJB's workforce, is also planning to hold a ballot for strike action for some time in the middle of February.

Suggested Topics
PROMOTED VIDEO
Sport
Neil Warnock
football'New' manager for Crystal Palace
News
peopleGerman paper published pictures of 18-month-old daughter
Arts and Entertainment
'A voice untroubled by time': Kate Bush
musicKate Bush set to re-enter album charts after first conerts in 35 years
Sport
Angel Di Maria poses with Louis van Gaal after signing for Manchester United
sport
Arts and Entertainment
BBC series 'Sherlock' scooped a hat-trick of awards on the night. Benedict Cumberbatch received the award for Actor, Miniseries or Movie ('Sherlock: His Last Vow') while Martin Freeman won the award for Supporting Actor, Miniseries or Movie. Neither actor was present to collect their awards
tv
Life and Style
tech
News
ebooksAn evocation of the conflict through the eyes of those who lived through it
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Money & Business

Client Services Executive / Account Executive - SW London

£23000 - £26000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Account Executive / Client Services ...

PA to CEO / Executive Secretary

£36000 - £38000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Executive PA to CEO & Executive Dire...

Generalist HR Administrator, Tunbridge Wells, Kent - £28,000.

£25000 - £28000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Generalist HR Administrator - Tunbri...

Management Accountant

£30-35k + Excellent Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Management Accoun...

Day In a Page

Kate Bush, Hammersmith Apollo music review: A preamble, then a coup de théâtre - and suddenly the long wait felt worth it

Kate Bush shows a voice untroubled by time

A preamble, then a coup de théâtre - and suddenly the long wait felt worth it
Robot sheepdog technology could be used to save people from burning buildings

The science of herding is cracked

Mathematical model would allow robots to be programmed to control crowds and save people from burning buildings
Tyrant: Is the world ready for a Middle Eastern 'Dallas'?

This tyrant doesn’t rule

It’s billed as a Middle Eastern ‘Dallas’, so why does Fox’s new drama have a white British star?
Rachael Lander interview: From strung out to playing strings

From strung out to playing strings

Award-winning cellist Rachael Lander’s career was almost destroyed by the alcohol she drank to fight stage fright. Now she’s playing with Elbow and Ellie Goulding
The science of saturated fat: A big fat surprise about nutrition?

A big fat surprise about nutrition?

The science linking saturated fats to heart disease and other health issues has never been sound. Nina Teicholz looks at how governments started advising incorrectly on diets
Emmys 2014 review: Can they genuinely compete with the Oscars

Can they genuinely compete with the Oscars?

The recent Emmy Awards are certainly glamorous, but they can't beat their movie cousins
On the road to nowhere: A Routemaster trip to remember

On the road to nowhere

A Routemaster trip to remember
Hotel India: Mumbai's Taj Mahal Palace leaves its darker days behind

Hotel India

Mumbai's Taj Mahal Palace leaves its darker days behind
10 best pencil cases

Back to school: 10 best pencil cases

Whether it’s their first day at school, uni or a new project, treat the student in your life to some smart stationery
Arsenal vs Besiktas Champions League qualifier: Gunners know battle with Turks is a season-defining fixture

Arsenal know battle with Besiktas is a season-defining fixture

Arsene Wenger admits his below-strength side will have to improve on last week’s show to pass tough test
Pete Jenson: Athletic Bilbao’s locals-only transfer policy shows success does not need to be bought

Pete Jenson: A Different League

Athletic Bilbao’s locals-only transfer policy shows success does not need to be bought
This guitar riff has been voted greatest of all time

The Greatest Guitar Riff of all time

Whole Lotta Votes from Radio 2 listeners
Britain’s superstar ballerina

Britain’s superstar ballerina

Alicia Markova danced... every night of the week and twice on Saturdays
Berlin's Furrie invasion

Berlin's Furrie invasion

2000 fans attended Eurofeurence
‘It was a tidal wave of terror’

‘It was a tidal wave of terror’

Driven to the edge by postpartum psychosis