Miners threaten strikes over UK Coal shake-up

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The Independent Online

Plans unveiled for a major overhaul of working practices at the country's biggest coal firm could spark strikes by miners, a union leader warned yesterday.

UK Coal, formerly RJB Mining, announced plans to boost flagging productivity, which could lead to near round-the-clock mining.

Union leaders warned that if longer hours were imposed on miners there would be a ballot for industrial action.

Neil Greatrex, president of the Union of Democratic Mineworkers, said the planned changes will have to be discussed and agreed or "they will not happen".

The company, which employs 7,200 people at 13 collieries, has been reviewing the introduction of more flexible working practices.

Gordon McPhie, who took over as chief executive in July, said: "The group is focused on improving productivity and reducing its costs."

It is not clear if the review will lead to the closure of any pits, although Mr McPhie said the company was currently recruiting extra staff in an effort to boost production.

"We will be looking for continuous operations and probably over the best part of seven days a week," he added.

The union pointed to the European directive aimed at restricting the working week to 48 hours.

The Doncaster-based company's pre-tax losses widened to £10.8m in the six months to 30 June from £10.2m last time.