Miners to march on Parliament and may take fight to courts

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The Independent Online
WORK-INS and demonstrations at pits under immediate threat of closure were in prospect last night as miners' leaders called for a national strike.

A delegates meeting of the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) in Sheffield today is likely to urge a 'yes' vote in a ballot on industrial action. The TUC is to organise a march and lobby of Parliament. The Union of Democratic Mineworkers and the TUC are considering legal action to try to halt the closures.

Meanwhile, a document allegedly leaked from British Coal was said to show that it intends to close three more pits employing nearly 2,500 workers, including the last mines in Wales and Scotland.

British Coal said it 'had no knowledge' of the document, adding that each pit was needed to fulfil contracts with power generators. The Coalfield Communities Campaign, said it received the paper from a coal board source and was convinced it was genuine. According to the document the extra collieries to go are: Longannet in Scotland, employing 1,350 men; Tower in Wales, with 400 employees; and Whitemore, part of the relatively new Selby coalfield in north Yorkshire, where 600 pitmen work. Kay Jenkinson, of the campaign, which is backed by 85 local authorities, believes the information has been withheld 'to avoid stirring Scottish and Welsh sensitivities'.

The Labour Party and Arthur Scargill, president of the NUM, calculated yesterday that British Coal's announcement of 31 pit closures and 30,000 job losses by March would lead to another 70,000 redundancies in related industries.

Colliery supervisors fear the loss of 15,000 private contractors' jobs at the doomed pits, and rail unions are to meet British Rail over fears for 5,000 workers involved in the transport of coal.

Ministers suffered embarrassment yesterday when the EC Commission rejected a plea for almost pounds 25m extra regional aid. Tim Eggar, Minister of State for Energy, was 'very disappointed'.

It is by no means clear that a miners' strike will result from the closures. In a meeting between the rail and coal unions yesterday, Mr Scargill urged the railmen to call publicly for industrial action, but they refused to do so until the meeting with BR. Signs that miners share the railway workers' lack of enthusiasm for industrial action came when the three south Wales pits voted against. The national strike ballot is likely to take place on 29 October.

Michael Heseltine, President of the Board of Trade, warned against a return to 'wrecking tactics' in the industry, saying they could throw away the benefits of the redundancy package for miners.

Meanwhile, it emerged yesterday that the Department of Trade and Industry failed to conduct a formal cost-benefit analysis before committing pounds 1bn of taxpayers' money to closing the 31 collieries.

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