Councils unite to help miners while funding talks continue

Kellingley Colliery
Kellingley Colliery
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THREE YORKSHIRE councils have joined together to provide support for hundreds of mineworkers facing redundancy.

As talks continue between UK Coal and the Government to secure a funding package of between £10m and £20m so it can continue to operate collieries in Kellingley, North Yorkshire, and Thoresby, Nottinghamshire, during an 18-month “managed closure”, plans are being put in place to provide retraining for the 700 workers who face losing their jobs.

Wakefield, North Yorkshire and Selby councils are working to provide retraining to the highly skilled workforce, as well as continuing to put pressure on the Government to help UK Coal prevent the closures.

Wakefield Council’s chief executive Joanne Roney said that the Council was working with Jobcentre Plus to organise an advice day at the colliery to support miners looking for other jobs, and to connect them with local employers, like Haribo.

She said: “The loss of all these jobs is a big blow for the district. But there are new jobs coming on to the market and we will be putting the Kellingley workforce in contact with local employers and with training providers as quickly as we can. It is important that the mineworkers get the support they need to use their existing skills or re-skill so they can take up new opportunities.”

Selby District Council leader Coun Mark Crane said he’d already met with training providers who had offered to put together packages for people coming out of the colliery.

He said: “We are going to work with Wakefield Council to look at retraining, but in the meantime we will work with the Government to see what can be done for the future. If the pit does close it represents the end of a chapter in Selby’s history.”

Yvette Cooper, MP for Normanton, Pontefract and Castleford, met National Union of Mineworkers reps and colliery management at Kellingley yesterday, where she was shown plans that map out another 20 years of production at the site.

The Shadow Home Secretary said: “Our first priority is to get the imminent deal in place to keep the colliery open so that we can keep 700 jobs in the local economy, and secondly to make sure there is a long term future for Kellingley beyond 2015.”

More than 200-plus mineworkers gathered at a branch meeting of the Kellingley NUM at Kellingley Club on Thursday night where members were “buoyed” by the support and good wishes they had received.

NUM Kellingley delegate Keith Hartshorne said members believed that a funding package to close the pit should not be accepted, instead, they called on the Government to provide a loan on a commercial basis to keep the colliery afloat until Kellingley is back in production, or apply for European funding. The colliery is not currently producing coal while salvage work takes place on a seam mined several years ago.

Mr Hartshorne said: “We need to keep the pressure on the Government to see sense, and give us a chance to be profitable again.

“We do not want to accept money that will tie into the closure of Kellingley.”

UK Coal yesterday confirmed that formal consultation with trade unions had begun and was expected to take 45 days.

Meanwhile NUM General Secretary, Chris Kitchen, has called for the coal industry to be re-nationlised.

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