UDM told ministers how to cut miners' power

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The Independent Online
THE Union of Democratic Mineworkers advised ministers on how to minimise the impact of strikes in a privatised coal industry, make miners work longer hours underground and weaken the pit supervisors' union.

A memorandum from the UDM to Timothy Eggar, Minister for Energy, also acknowledges the need for redundancies. The paper argues that the business should be divided in two, rendering industrial action less effective.

The memorandum was sent as part of a bid for privatised collieries by a consortium in which the non-TUC union is involved. It urged that the 'stranglehold' on mining by Nacods, the pit deputies' union, could be broken if other personnel had responsibility for safety.

The paper prepares the way for new employment contracts enforcing longer shifts and says that privatisation should be organised in such a way that miners have no redress over the new working conditions through industrial tribunals.

Peter McNestry, general secretary of Nacods, said the submission showed some senior UDM officials had lost their way as representatives of miners. He believes the letter reveals a degree of collaboration with the aims of the Government which many UDM members will find unpalatable.

Signed by Roy Lynk, former UDM president, the submission says: 'The UDM is fully aware that the role it has taken on, involving as it does radical changes for its members and possible redundancies, is self-contradictory in traditional industrial relations terms.' However, the union, whose members crossed picket lines in the 1984-85 coal strike, had already 'broken out of UK traditional trade union confines'.

The contents of the paper account for the sense of betrayal felt by Mr Lynk when the Government announced the closure of 31 pits in October. Mr Lynk staged a sit-in at a Nottinghamshire mine and handed back his OBE. He was subsequently defeated in presidential elections, partly because other UDM officials objected to the advice over privatisation being given to the Government. Mr Lynk lost to Neil Greatrex, who espouses more traditional union values.

The defeat of Mr Lynk puts a question mark over the union's enthusiasm for involvement with the British Association of Colliery Management and East Midlands Electricity in a consortium to bid for the industry. Mr Greatrex said the bid would go ahead as long as it was supported by UDM members.

Mr Lynk's submission advises creating a north-south divide in the industry, with the UDM taking the southern half including Nottinghamshire.

That area would be large enough and flexible enough to be competitive, but small enough to allow the application of 'made-to-measure' efficiency improvements. It adds: 'It also avoids any possible disruptive activity affecting the whole of the coal industry.'

It goes on: 'No matter what form privatisation takes, the role of Nacods (the pit deputies' union) needs to be examined.' No coal face can operate without prior inspection by deputies, the overwhelming majority of whom belong to the union. The memo says the duties of Nacods members were significantly increased in 1966 when a new system of pay was introduced. The industry should move away from such a system.