Kellingley Colliery: Ministers urged to provide retraining package for coalminers

Kellingley Colliery: Ministers urged to provide retraining package for coalminers

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Nigel Adams MP will be meeting this week with minister Anna Soubry to discuss retraining plans for out of work miners.  The Independent’s Mark Leftly reports:

Ministers are being urged to provide a retraining package for coalminers who will lose their jobs when Britain’s last deep pit closes next month.

Around 400 will be out of work when the Kellingley Colliery in North Yorkshire shuts before Christmas. They will receive statutory redundancy, which is capped at £14,250 – though many will receive only £9,500. Until 2013, workers were guaranteed a far more lucrative pay-off under a deal that had existed since the 1984-85 miners’ strike, while their pensions have also been reduced heavily in recent years.

Workers are also concerned that they will struggle to find other jobs. Keith Poulson, a branch officer for the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM), said many of their skills are “non-transferable”: “I’m upset about that [the changes to the pay-offs]. It’s ridiculous. It’s scandalous.”

Nigel Adams, the Tory MP whose Selby and Ainsty constituency includes Kellingley, is meeting Business minister Anna Soubry this week to see if she will agree to provide a retraining package. This would be similar to aspects of the £80m deal that workers in Redcar are receiving after the steel plant’s closure in September. “I don’t see any distinction between mineworkers and steelworkers being laid off,” Mr Adams said.

The Government and UK Coal, which owns Kellingley, might also face a parliamentary inquiry into how and why mineworkers’ redundancy and pension terms have changed. Chris Kitchen, the NUM general secretary, met MPs earlier this month and is pushing for the return of the lucrative pension terms mineworkers started receiving in 1994.

Iain Wright, chair of the Business, Innovation and Skills Select Committee, said he would “certainly be up” for running a joint probe with the Energy and Climate Change Committee. Angus MacNeil, who chairs the energy committee, said he would “consider” this and was concerned “workers’ rights have been eroded”.

A spokeswoman for UK Coal said: “It is our intention that all employees will receive the agreed pension payments and exit package.”