Final job loss tally 'could reach 125,000'

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The Independent Online
THE FINAL toll in lost jobs following the closure of 31 pits may reach 125,000 after all the knock-on effects have worked their way through the system.

For every job lost in the mining industry another will be lost in local service industries, according to Professor Stephen Fothergill, of Sheffield Hallam University. He predicts that the closure of mines will lead to an inevitable shift of population over the years. The result will be demoralised communities inhabiting crumbling towns and ghost villages.

'It may take some years to work its way through, but in the Rhondda Valley the population is now only half what it was when the coal mines were in full production,' Professor Fothergill said. 'Once the spending power has gone out of the local economy then shops, garages and pubs have to reduce employees.'

The direct loss of jobs in the 31 mines which are scheduled to be closed has been estimated by Andrew Glyn, economist at Corpus Christi College, Oxford, at 23,800 miners and 7,600 clerical, administrative and other workers. Another 31,500 jobs will be lost among suppliers of all kinds - a total of 62,900 jobs.

Dr Glyn makes the conservative assumption that for every four jobs lost in the mining industry and among its suppliers just one job will be lost in service industries. This estimates the immediately foreseeable impact of the cuts at 78,600 jobs lost.

The jobs lost are not simply lost temporarily, Dr Glyn emphasises. 'Even if a miner, or somebody else immediately affected by the closures finds alternative work, that does not mean that a replacement job has been created in the economy. On the contrary it means that somebody else who would have taken that work remains unemployed.'

The unemployment created by the closures will persist into the foreseeable future, Dr Glyn believes. If a miner gets a new job it does not affect the length of the dole queue but only the names of the people on it.

'Thus the economic costs of the higher unemployment, let alone the hardship on individuals concerned, are not simply one-off, but would continue for a long period.'

Dr Glyn points out that his calculation takes no account of the possibility that some mining equipment manufacturers will not be able to support their export business on the basis of a diminished home market.

There are about 50 major British companies supplying eEquipment to the mining industry, earning pounds 900m a year, pouTHER write errornds 400m from exports.

As well as the large suppliers of electrical goods, steel props, rails and winding equipment, many smaller specialist suppliers will be affected.

TBA Belting Ltd of Wigan has about one-third of its business tied up with British Coal. The company employs about 150 people in the manufacturing of a superior fire-proof belting made from a woven fabric covered with pvc, used on conveyors carrying coal.

Graham Hornby, managing director, said: 'About half of our business with British Coal is in jeopardy. We might have to reduce the number of employees on this side of the business by half.

'We export the belting to Australia, Spain and the United States, but the closures are happening so quickly that you just cannot replace that business at the same speed.'

The impact of the closures will spread far beyond the mining areas themselves. Peter Saywell, managing director of a small Birmingham company employing 14 people, supplies British Coal with girder clips used on arches when lifting and pulling.

He said: 'It is an important product for us - 20 per cent of our production. British Coal is likely to halve its order. But I am getting off my bottom and am going to get out and sell to other markets.'

Attempts to create new jobs in mining areas have a comparatively small impact, judging by past experience, although they are important in mitigating the decline of communities.

The Rural Development Corporation, a government agency, has spent pounds 3.5m since April 1990 in mining communities in Leicester, Nottinghamshire and Derbyshire, and more in the north of England. The largest part of that, pounds 2.6m, has been spent on establishing small workshops in Nottinghamshire and Derbyshire, often in collaboration with the local authorities.

Altogether the corporation has provided 120,000 sq ft of space in the two counties which will accommodate up to 500 workers in a variety of jobs from engineering to electronics. Another 25,000 sq ft of space in Leicestershire may accommodate up to 100 workers.

Even if all 600 spaces were taken by people in new jobs, and no one believes that will be the case, they have to be compared to the 32,000 mining jobs lost in these areas during the 1980s.

Another 10,000 jobs will be lost if the present cuts go through.