Threat to cut 200 jobs at protected Welsh pit

FORTY PER CENT of the workforce at Tower Colliery in Wales - one of British Coal's supposedly safe core of 19 mines - could be made redundant, according to the Welsh Office.

The 200 job cuts, in a workforce of 500, are revealed in a letter from Gwilym Jones, Under-Secretary of State for Wales, to Ann Clwyd, Labour's heritage spokesperson. British Coal said yesterday it could not comment on personnel matters.

The letter says that Tower faces reduced demand from National Power's Aberthaw power station. 'As a result coal is being stockpiled so British Coal will be having to request 200 voluntary redundancies to cut output,' it adds. The letter also confirms that Tower will become a standalone pit, as will Longannet in Scotland, when British Coal reorganises to cut administrative and management overheads.

Mrs Clwyd has accused the Prime Minister of being 'cynical and uncaring' in his dealings with Welsh miners. 'In an area with the highest unemployment in Wales, at a pit which this year has made pounds 1m profit, it makes no economic or social sense to destroy these jobs,' she said. Mrs Clwyd has demanded that the Government spells out the real agenda for the 19 'safe' pits.

In addition to the core 19, British Coal has 11 pits producing coal for which there is no buyer and these are adding to stockpiles at a rate of up to 1 million tonnes a month. The 11 are being kept open while British Coal tries to persuade the generators, National Power and PowerGen, to buy extra coal but both generators already have massive stockpiles.

Sales to the generators have fallen to 40 million tonnes, from 65 million last year, and are set to fall a further 10 million tonnes from next spring, which could force British Coal to close some of its core pits.

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