All out strike at Rossington
OVER 300 miners at Rossington colliery near Doncaster in South Yorkshire began their third week on all-out strike on Monday. The strike has seen mass pickets of up to 100 people.
This is a sign of the intense feeling among Rossington miners that they have been pushed around long enough and that they are no longer going to be intimidated by threats of job losses. A strike ballot in July saw almost three quarters of the National Union of Miners members backing a strike.
The dispute is over bonus payments. Miners want the bonus to kick in once the pit has produced 17,500 tonnes a week. UK Coal (formerly RJB Mining) says no money will be offered until a target of 21,500 tonnes is reached. Rossington NUM rep Chris Skidmore says, "We have tried every avenue we know to get the company to agree to a compromise. We have already moved our figure from 15,500 tonnes.
"We have always maintained that bonus schemes are heavily weighted on management's side. We cannot meet UK Coal's target on a normal eight-hour shift and it has consistently not been achieved."
At the national level UK Coal bosses have drawn up radical cost-cutting plans, which will almost certainly include making miners work weekends for the first time, in a bid to boost profits. The plan is also expected to see the company push for its 8,000 miners to work 12-hour shifts.
The productivity drive, codenamed Project 105, is aimed at cutting production costs by more than 20 percent. Gordon McPhie, who recently replaced Richard Budge as UK Coal's chief executive, hopes to unveil details of the plan with the company's interim results on 13 September.
McPhie wants to cut costs from 135p a gigajoule (a measure of energy) to 105p. It is understood he wants mines to operate 24 hours a day, seven days a week, as they do in Australia and the US, compared with UK Coal's average of 68 hours a week.
RJB Mining announced profits of �17.8 million in March but is now forecasting dire figures. Future clashes with the NUM seem likely. The government is also strongly involved as it provides state aid to increase UK Coal's profits. John Robinson, the new chairman of Railtrack, is also the non-executive chair of UK Coal, a position where he apparently caught the eye of New Labour ministers.