Letter: Pit closure in practice

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The Independent Online
Sir: Of course many miners face a dilemma because of the uncertainty over the future of their pit - and that is one of the main reasons why in the past seven weeks over 5,000 have chosen to leave to seek a job elsewhere. But last Saturday's report ('Coal pits due for review suffer cuts and job losses') is misleading and inaccurate.

It is not true that collieries are being allowed to deteriorate. The fabric of the collieries proposed for closure is being maintained in accordance with good mining practice. We did not cancel buses and leave men stranded. Changes in travel arrangements at Hatfield Colliery were advertised at the mine for two weeks. Other arrangements were agreed with employees who faced difficulties.

A shearing machine for transfer to Frickley colliery was not abandoned and sealed off in an exhausted coal face at Markham Main. British Coal does not recover equipment from mines unless it makes economic sense and the equipment is needed elsewhere. Lack of equipment has never jeopardised the future of any mine. Hatfield is not being 'downgraded' to a one-face mine. Lack of manpower would not prevent mining restarting at Markham. And it is wrong to suggest that British Coal has breached assurances given to the High Court or taken action that conflicts with statements made to MPs.

Every employee who has left British Coal has been counselled, made aware of the options available, and on request, given details of severance terms. We have also given assurances - on the calculations for redundancy pay, and on cash in lieu of notice - that employees will not suffer financially by remaining until the consultation process is complete.

Two more points. We would not try to stop employees campaigning against pit closures. That would be quite wrong. What employees do in their spare time is obviously a matter for them. But we have made it clear we cannot accept unauthorised absence. Finally, in the present uncertain climate, it must be reasonable to expect men to report for work - even if it's then found there is no particular task for some of them - remembering that men sent home qualify for a guaranteed wage of up to pounds 210 a week.

Yours sincerely,

MICHAEL GREEN

Director of Public Relations

British Coal Corporation

London, SW1

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