British Coal aims to shed 3,000 white-collar jobs

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BRITISH COAL announced plans yesterday to more than halve its management and clerical staff with the loss of 3,000 jobs. The company is restructuring its deep-mined operations from five regional groups to two - a Northern Group and a Midlands Group - to achieve the cuts in administrative jobs and costs.

The cuts, which will take place over several months, will fuel the growing criticism that the Government's review of the coal sector was a sham.

In addition, British Coal said that a further five deep mines which have already ceased production are being offered to the private sector, bringing the total number of pits on offer for lease and licence to 19.

Neil Clarke, British Coal's chairman, said: 'The hard reality is that we now have just 30 producing collieries and it is now apparent that a restructuring of the organisation is necessary to focus accountability and responsibility more closely.'

About 20,000 people have already left the industry since October when British Coal announced the closure of 31 pits - in spite of a subsequent decision to 'reprieve' 12 of the mines.

The future of those 12 is also increasingly under threat as it depends on extra sales of coal to the generators, National Power and PowerGen.

In the last few weeks, National Power and PowerGen have rejected an offer from British Coal to sell to them extra coal at pounds 22 a tonne, which compares with the pounds 36 charged under existing contracts and pounds 44 a tonne which the generators paid until earlier this year.

A source at British Coal said: 'We are offering to sell at half the old price and still they will not buy.'