Union puts cost of sacking 30,000 miners at 2.7bn pounds

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The Independent Online
SACKING 30,000 miners at the 31 pits under threat of closure would cost pounds 2.7bn, the Union of Democratic Mineworkers said yesterday.

That cost, together with future productivity savings, should be fully taken into account when assessing the cost of using alternative fuels for electricity generation, the union urged in evidence to the Commons trade and industry select committee inquiry.

The committee heard from Roy Lynk, the UDM's former president, who was ousted from the job on Monday and replaced by Neil Greatrex. He told the committee that 'taking the social cost that goes into the whole cake' British Coal could be competitive in the 1990s.

The union's written submission argued that a conservative estimate of the cost of redundancies, unemployment, consequential job losses and retraining at the 31 pits would be pounds 2.68bn.

It added that the impact of the seven proposed closures in Nottinghamshire would cause male unemployment in the county to rise from 16.7 to 19 per cent.

It said also that each mining redundancy would give rise to at least two further job losses. The employment select committee was told yesterday that the closure programme would lead to the immediate loss of 15,000 engineering jobs and would threaten exports of mining companies.

Leaders of the Engineering Employers' Confederation said the loss of a large element of the pounds 850m spent on engineering products by British Coal would mean company closures and job losses.

British Coal has offered to sell 40 million tons of coal to generating companies at pounds 1.50 a ton next year and 30 million tons at pounds 1.33 a ton in the four subsequent years. The union argued that an additional 15 million tons could be sold each year provided that some of it was priced at pounds 1.33 now.

'The list of 31 mines which would cease production includes mines well able to produce at lower cost into the long term if they are given the opportunity,' it said.

The short-term problem of generators' coal stocks should be tackled by the President of the Board of Trade, Michael Heseltine, who had power to set minimum levels, the submission said. The level for the two main generators should be set at 20 million tons and a reduction in present stocks of 10 million tons over three years should be agreed.

The High Court yesterday reserved judgment on an attempt by the mineworkers' unions to overturn the early closure of 10 pits.

Lord Justice Glidewell, sitting with Mr Justice Hidden, said at the end of a 10-day hearing that the court would give its decision 'as soon as we can'.

Sir Bob Reid, chairman of British Rail, said 2,770 workers in trainload freight would lose their jobs in the next four years. He told the employment select committee that 1,150 would be the direct result of British Coal's pit closure plan.

(Photograph omitted)