SPECIAL FEATURE: International Solidarity UK and Ukrainian Miners

International solidarity between the miners of Ukraine and the UK goes back a long way. It was Welshman John Hughes and Welsh miners who travelled to Ukraine to develop the Donbas coalfields in the Nineteenth Century. In the fifties and sixties there were regular trade union exchanges. During the 1984/5 strike the Ukrainian miners raised money and food to support the striking UK miners. In 2007 after an international miners’ union conference in India it was agreed to restore regular solidarity exchanges. Even in 2014 after the tragic upheaval in Ukraine leading to the Maidan revolution and the overthrow of their corrupt President Yanukovych a delegation from the Mineworkers Union of Ukraine (PRUP) came over and addressed the Durham Miners Gala.

Sergey Yunak, head of the Pavlograd Ukrainian Mineworkers Union addresses the 2014 Durham Gala
Ukrainian Miners representatives gather in Durham in front of South Wales NUM banner

This year, on the 55th anniversary of the establishment of the Pavolograd, Western Donbas coalfield, a group of representatives of the NUM attended the celebrations of Miners Day and Independence Day alongside miners and Union representatives.
The Pavlograd coalfield has enormous reserves. It consists of ten coal mines, part of the DTEK energy company. Together they employ around 20,000 workers in the area and produce around half the entire coal production of Ukraine, around 20 million tonnes which is used to supply local power stations.

Each year the miners and townspeople come together to celebrate Miners day and Independence day but also to lay flowers at the town memorial to all the victims of war, from the Cossack wars of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, to the victims of the Holodomor (Stalin’s forced famine which killed around 5 million people between 1932-33) , the victims of the Nazis in the fight against fascism and more recently the 18 local miners who have died fighting on the front line to protect Ukrainian independence from Putin’s invasion of parts of Eastern Ukraine. Chris Kitchen laid flowers on behalf of the NUM.

Photographic memorial to Pavlograd citizens and miners who died fighting the Russian invasion of Eastern Ukraine
NUM General Secretary Chris Kitchen in front of the memorial to the Pavlograd victims of wars and fascism
Flowers being laid at the memorial to the victims of war, Stalin’s famine and the fight against fascism

A march through the town by local miners and veterans of the current war with their bullet holed flags was a reminder of the current difficulties faced by the town and the country and the sacrifice currently being made by the local population.
This commemoration was followed by a celebration of Ukrainian independence. Cossacks with flags, families and young children dressed in national costumes singing Ukrainian songs and even an English song. Many present were brought to tears when many of the young people ran over to the NUM representatives and wives and hugged them, thanking them for visiting their town.

Ukrainian children greet the UK NUM delegation with songs, flowers and hugs

Pavlograd is a coal town but also a Union town. Just as with the Durham Gala, miners are proud of their contribution to the economy and local community as the townspeople are of them. It was a great honour to be invited to attend the unveiling of a giant miner’s lamp in the local park in recognition of the miners’ contribution to the town and local economy.

New Pavlograd reminder of the importance of coal and the sacrifices of Ukrainian miners

Meetings took place between the NUM and PRUP discuss the lessons that could be learned from the demise of the UK coal industry and how to continue the preservation of miners’ history through local museums and cultural contacts. The delegation also met with the Mayor of Pavlograd and the head of Pavlograd coal to discuss issues around coal production and the development of new technologies.

NUM General Secretary meeting with the head of DTEK Pavlograd Coal and Ukrainian miners’ leader Sergey Yunak

Other visits included a visit to the local branch of the equivalent of the British Legion which seeks to support those injured in the war or suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.
These volunteers include many local miners , who have themselves served on the frontline, work with the injured to help rehabilitate them, to cope with their problems physical or psychological and provide community support.

Dnipro museum to the Anti-Terrorist Operation in Ukraine

On the final day in Pavlograd, we were all taken to enormous indoor and outdoor concerts attended by thousands of local people to celebrate Miners day through music, dance and at the end, a spectacular firework display.

Miners’ children perform a dance routine on Miners Day highlighting the process of coal mining and the dangers of mining

The bond between British and Ukrainian miners is strong. Whatever the government, whatever the country, miners are the same the world over and share a common bond. The importance to the Ukrainian miners of the international solidarity of the NUM cannot be underestimated. Its importance to the local community was shown by the tremendous reception the NUM received wherever they went. This NUM delegation on the 55th anniversary of the Pavlograd coalfield was exceptional, meeting not just union representatives, but company representatives, local miners, local families and young people. Everywhere the message was the same. Thank you for coming, it means a lot to us. Please come again.

COAL COMBINE MEETING

NUM / unite the UNION
The meeting was hosted by the NUM in Barnsley with Jerry Swain (National Officer Unite), Graham Walton (Unite Shop Steward and Coal Combine Secretary), Nigel Yaxley (Managing Director CoalImP) and Chris Kelsey (Communications Manager Banks Group).
The need to raise awareness of the serious situation regarding the coal industry was discussed at length. Coal seems to be overlooked with coal needed not just for electricity generation but also iron and steel manufacture, cement manufacture, coke manufacture, domestic heat generation, sugar production, food and beverage production, chemicals production, patent fuel manufacture including smokeless briquettes, carbon fibre products and many other uses.
Early Day Motions were discussed as a way of trying to raise awareness of the plight of coal and it was considered useful that MP’s be made aware that if the UK is to have any fuel security at all then the whole coal industry from production to distribution and use needs to be considered. In a written answer to Philip Davies MP, Con, Shipley, the Minister said on 12 June 2018 ‘I have regular discussions with Ministers in other governments on a range of topics, including the production and use of coal, promoting the UK’s Industrial Strategy and maximising opportunities for UK firms after Brexit.’ The meeting asked what had been discussed in relation to the UK coal industry and what could we expect ‘after Brexit’.

Since the meeting Ronnie Campbell MP, Labour Blyth Valley has tabled an EDM which is common sense and should be supported by all MP’s. Ask your MP to support this motion.

Early day motion 1596
NEED FOR COAL TO MAKE STEEL AND CEMENT IN THE UK
• Session: 2017-19
• Date tabled: 10.09.2018
• Primary sponsor: Campbell, Ronnie
• Sponsors:
That this House notes that coal is an integral part of the UK manufacturing sector used in the chemical process to make steel and cement; further notes that over the last decade around nine million tonnes per annum of coal has been needed in the UK for non-electricity generation purposes; notes that if coal is not produced in the UK it will be imported from countries including Russia, the US, Colombia and Australia which produce more carbon dioxide through its transportation than coal produced in the UK; and therefore calls on the Government to recognise the production of high quality coal in the UK supports jobs, skills, taxes and investment in the UK and cuts down the carbon dioxide emitted in transporting coal from producers thousands of miles away.

SCOTTISH GOVERNMENT

Opened 3 Sep 2018

Policing during miners’ strike: independent review
Closes 30 Nov 2018

Contact
minersstrikereview@gov.scot

Overview
This is a general call for evidence on the impact of policing on affected communities in Scotland during the period of the miners’ strike from March 1984 to March 1985. Evidence is sought from affected individuals and representative groups. The evidence gathered in this exercise will help inform the report and any recommendations made by the Independent Review to the Cabinet Secretary for Justice, Humza Yousaf MSP.

Responses are requested by Friday 30 November 2018. Please make your response in no more than 2,000 words.

See link for further information.
https://consult.gov.scot/justice/policing-during-miners-strike-independent-review/

Miners’ Skegness Home Under Threat

The closure of The Miners’ Retreat, Skegness formerly the Derbyshire Miners’ Convalescent Home, would be yet another blow to those who worked in the coal industry.
The home which is open to all with mining background has been open since 1939 and according to CISWO is still in high demand “the level of demand for rooms remains very strong with occupancy level in 2015 of 91.3% with 1,159 rooms booked out of an available number of 1,460.“
With its seafront location it is no wonder why people are upset, and the NUM has written to CISWO to see what has been done to retain this facility.

Read Chris Kitchen’s letter here.

Why Do MP’s Not Sign Early Day Motions?

(https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.5)

The latest briefing paper on the Mineworkers’ Pension Scheme placed in the House of Commons Library 25 July 2018 is worth a read (click here).
The paper covers the issues raised by mining MP’s who were members of the NUM at the time and those that continue to help.
It also acknowledges and references the work of Les Moore’s ‘Mineworkers Pension Scheme for Justice and fair play Association’ and that the campaign is calling for a review of the 50/50 sharing of surpluses to be changed to reflect: a more realistic percentage which reflects the guarantors’ risk and recover all monies that rightly belong to the mineworkers of the UK.
It should be pointed out here that although there are those who feel that an MP’s Early Day Motion (EDM) is a waste of time the fact that a well worded EDM in support of miners’ pensions is not shown as supported by all Labour MP’s does not help our cause and we urge all MP’s to support the case for a review and support EDM’s that reflect that.

 

 

When Is An Increase Not An Increase?

Correct me if I am wrong but most MPS pensioners over 65 won’t know exactly what separate headings constitute their pension let alone what each figure is and how it is worked out.
So, when they are informed that the “Guaranteed pension (excluding GMP) is the heading that actually gets the 4.2% rise they are not much wiser. They are then informed that there is a Pre and Post 1988 GMP along with “Reducing bonus” and “Level bonuses granted from 2012 to 2017” you would forgive them from getting a little confused but now there is another element “New level bonus granted in 2018”.
So after “good investment returns” and a “large surplus” MPS beneficiaries would be expecting to at least hold on to the same shopping basket this year as they did last year?
But wait the “Scheme Actuary has decided that a payment of £475 million should be made from the Investment Reserve to the Government by 30 September 2018.”
Click this MPS logo  to see the latest information from the MPS Meeting with the Membership Support Network.
The example given for a pensioner over 65 shows that the pensioner is going to have to take something out of the shopping bag this year. The example shows a pensioner on £84 will see the pension rise to £86.08 but with inflation at 3.4% to stay level they would need £86.86 so something must go out of the basket and if they pay tax then they will have to do without something else.
The cynical among us will say that during the six years that the “New level bonus granted in 2018” has to run – how many thousands will die and receive very little of the “large surplus”? It also remains unanswered as to what would happen if there is another surplus in 3 years? How would that effect the 6 years roll out of this surplus?
They talk in Parliament about their “gold plated pensions” at the same time as they take another £475 m of miners’ pensions money. With Government coffers being topped up again with pensioners money there is a clear need to look again at whether MPS beneficiaries are getting value for money.

Chris Kitchen

NUM Fight For Fairness in Ill Health

NEC Member Dennis Howard – Photo thanks to Chris Bevan former Askern Miner www.chrisbevanphotography.co.uk

Miners who are not able to work due to ill-health say they are not to blame for the closure of mines and yet with the closures they are no longer able to apply for an early pension due to ill-health that is unreduced, and this is a cause for concern.

 

The issue has been raised at the NUM Yorkshire Area Council meetings and passed on to the NUM National Executive Meetings.

The NUM members who are trustees on the IWMPS have raised this issue with the MPS who have been asked to look at this issue.

 

NUM National President Nicky Wilson

The NUM say that miners are still being hit hard, losing their job, losing their health and losing their pension. The NUM is still alive and kicking and will push for justice on this and many other issues.

 

 

 

MPS MEETING REPORT – CHRIS KITCHEN

Miners’ Leader Chris Kitchen – Photo thanks to Chris Bevan former Askern Miner www.chrisbevanphotography.co.uk

Attendees: Gloria De Piero MP, Nick Smith MP, Stephanie Peacock MP, Dan Jarvis MP, Ian Lavery MP, Chris Cheetham, Paul Trickett, Bobby Clelland (Elected Trustee), Dan Whincup, Andy Gibbons, Holly Nelson (Coal Pension Trustees [C.P.T.]. Nicky Wilson, Wayne Thomas, Chris Kitchen, Alan Spencer, David Hamilton (NUM) Rob Skelton (First Actuarial).

Apologies: Grahame Morris MP, Chris Elmore MP, Yvette Cooper MP, Dennis Skinner MP.

The meeting convened by Gloria De Piero MP was held, 26 June 2018, in meeting room 4A in the House of Lords and was a joint meeting between the Labour Group of supporting MP’s, the NUM (with Actuarial advisor) and the Trustees of the MPS (with CPT advisors). The purpose of the meeting was to present the NUM commissioned report previously discussed with the Labour MP’s group to the MPS Trustees and their advisors.

The aim is to find common ground that will enable a joint approach to Government for a review of the current surplus sharing arrangement with a view to improving benefits to Scheme Beneficiaries. Following discussing the NUM commissioned Report it was agreed that the co-author of the report present at the meeting would hold further meetings with CPT to explain the assumptions used in the report and gain a better insight into the assumptions used by the MPS actuary in the tri-annual valuation and scheme rules. It was agreed that this meeting would take place within the next couple of weeks.

The MPS Trustees present informed the meeting that they had approached the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) and discussions had taken place in respect of possible improvements to Scheme benefits. The improvements the Scheme Trustees were seeking centred around guaranteeing the bonus payments currently in payment. While this would be a step in the right direction it was felt on the basis of the NUM commissioned report from other parties present that a more substantial ask should be made than that of just guaranteeing the current bonuses in payment.

Although discussions had been started with BEIS no conclusion was reached and the Trustees had decided to suspend talks to concentrate on the tri-annual valuation the results of which should be known in the next few weeks. Once the valuation results are known it is the Trustees intention to restart the discussions with BEIS.

While any improvement to Scheme benefits is welcome the NUM’s view remains on the basis of the report that the focus of the review and future benefit improvements should not be based on what is fair between the Government and the Scheme for how future surpluses should be split but what is in the best interests of Scheme members. The focus of future discussions should be on what is a fair price and value for money for the Scheme beneficiaries for the Government in return for the guarantee, a guarantee that so far has not required the government to put in a single penny of new money into the scheme but enabled it to benefit by taking £billions out, not a bad return for taking on such a low level of risk.

It was clear from the meeting that there is still a significant amount of work to do in order to reach an agreed position that would enable the parties to present a united front to Government. The ask of government should be to improve benefits for Scheme members in the short term as it is now that they need the money while recognising that the government will always be there and can wait for it. That the government receives what is a fair payment based on the level of risk it has taken on by providing the guarantee which on the basis of the report should be far less than the current 50%.

MINERS’ CLAW – UPDATE NUM and IIAC Press For Review

28 June 2018 Minister promises review of Dupuytren’s Contracture ‘miners claw’ ruling

The long running campaign to have the debilitating Dupuytren’s Contracture industrial disease recognised reached an important milestone this week with a senior government minister promising to unblock the process.

Dupuytren’s Contracture is the first industrial disease since 1947 not to be brought on to the statute books following an IIAC recommendation.

The NUM and Durham Miners’ Association (DMA) have been campaigning since 2014 for the government to accept the IIAC recommendation and allow this disease to be prescribed as an Industrial Disease thus allowing miners who suffer from the condition to make a claim for benefit.

The Industrial Injuries Advisory Council (IACC) is the independent body that recommends which industrial diseases be added to an official list.

Minister of State for Disabled People, Health and Work Sarah Newton MP met with County Durham MP’s and Durham Miners’ Association representatives to try to find a solution to the delay.

Sarah Newton MP promised that Chief Medical Officer, Professor Gina Radford, would review the evidence and report back within the next few months.

Alan Cummings, NUM NEC Member and DMA secretary, said: “It is a disgrace that miners, and other workers, have had to wait so long for this matter to be resolved. We now think there may be some light at the end of the tunnel.

“We would expect an answer to this long running issue sometime in the early autumn. We will be holding the minister to her word.”

Also, at the meeting were Durham City MP Roberta Blackman-Woods and North Durham MP Laura Pidcock. Laura Pidcock MP said: “This is a dreadful condition which we now know is caused, in part, by industrial work. It is time the government took action.”

Roberta Blackman-Woods MP said “We organised a big lobby of MP’s to support taking this action forward and we would expect to see results. This is an incurable condition which affects many people, particularly miners, and we need to see justice being done.”

Extract from Minutes of the IIAC Meeting – 11 January 20184.
Dupuytren’s contracture
4.1 IIAC published its command paper on Dupuytren’s contracture on 8 May 2014.
4.2 Sarah Newton MP, Minister for Minister for Disabled People, Health and Work, wrote to IIAC via the Chair on 30 November 2017, advising the Council the Department would not be proceeding with its recommendation to add Dupuytren’s contracture to the list of prescribed diseases.
4.3 It was noted that this is only the second time in at least 30 years that a recommendation from the Council has been turned down. Concern was raised that Minister may not have had the full breadth of information and evidence available on this topic.
4.4 In the letter, reference was made to Dupuytren’s often being mild and not requiring treatment. This was countered by a member who, through direct experience, made the case that the condition is often serious and can have a negative impact on patient’s lives and functioning. Research reports were also identified that cited quite high complication rates if surgery is needed. It was felt that the Command paper published back in 2014 (Cm 8860, Dupuytren’s contracture due to hand-transmitted vibration: IIAC report) did not emphasise this aspect enough.
4.5 The letter also stated that the Department considered priority should be given to diseases which are more severe in their effects. A member noted that this decision marked a considerable change in policy from the government, although a DWP official said that there was no explicit intention to alter policy. It was noted that several other conditions which are less disabling in nature are scheduled within the Scheme and, moreover, that the legislative framework provides for aggregation of conditions. The decision by the Minister thus appeared at variance with a basic provision of the Scheme and previous practice and precedent, raising questions about policy intent, consistency and the equal treatment of claimants and potential claimants.
4.6 A member considered that the decision might be challenged under the Equality Act. Another thought that it would raise criticism and challenge in the House.
4.7 The letter from the Minister offered the opportunity to meet with the Chair to discuss the matter. It was decided that this meeting should take place as soon as convenient and ahead of Council correspondence. Two members with relevant expertise agreed to accompany the Chair to the meeting.

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Durham Gala Fringe

Established in 2013 Education 4 Action facilitates events in the week preceding the Durham Miners Gala. We are a team of enthusiastic volunteers with a shared mining and Labour heritage. We work closely with the DMA, Marras and like- minded organisation and will warmly welcome anyone interested in joining us. See events here