18 September 2011

The reality of "modern" coal mining in the UK

Following the tragic death of four miners in the Swansea valley last week, I started reading around the health and safety record of our de-regulated coal industry. Whilst doing this I came across this an old article from the Guardian by a guy called Seumas Milne.

Here are a couple of quotes from the article

“On Friday nights in the Welsh valleys, miners go from pub to pub hunting for their employers to claim unpaid wages. Pay cheques bounce, mining companies close and re-open under other names, men are sacked for being union members or refusing to work on Christmas Day.
In some pits, miners get no basic minimum and are only paid by the tub of coal produced. Underground, they stand in streams of water, hacking at the face with picks and shovels. Wooden roof props, are standard”.

“Pit ponies haul rusting carloads of anthracite back and forth from the face. On the surface, there are no showers”.

“Phillip Rees, a 32-year-old miner electrocuted at the Blaengrennig colliery in the Amman valley just over a year ago. "The manager called me up and asked if this boy was one of my members," recalls Anthony Jones, the local National Union of Mineworkers official. It's just there's been a bit of an accident, he told me. I said I'd come right over anyway. He was dead when I got there. They didn't even know where he lived."

Now I would like you to guess when that was written. People paid by the tub of coal, pit ponies, wooden pit props, mine owners who screw their staff when they are alive and don’t even know how to contact families when they die. It sounds like something out of the 1920’s, but this picture of a bygone age is truely shocking because its not 100 or even 50 years ago. It’s from 1994, ten years after the miners strike and the decimation of the UK coal. That is the reality of what Thatcher and her cronies did to one of our proudest industries – knocked it back a hundred years.

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