Column: Council leader Peter Box says: “Never forget the contribution miners made.”

Coun Peter Box.
Coun Peter Box.

Coal mining is a distinct part of our district’s heritage.

The very fact that we are home to the National Coal Mining Museum for England is testament to the fact coal mining was once at the very heart of our local industry and people’s lives.

Many of us have a close family member who worked as a miner.

Both my grandfathers were the last of my family to work down the pit but prior to that it had employed nearly all previous generations.

Working in the mining industry was a dangerous job. Miners at the coal face were exposed to risks every day of their working lives and many have been left with long term health problems.

In April 2016, councillors highlighted ongoing concerns associated with the Mineworkers’ Pension Scheme at a meeting of full Council.

Miners, and their widows, have been fighting for many years for a fairer share of the proceeds from their pension fund.

In support of this campaign, we continue to urge the Government to review the current 50:50 profit sharing arrangements linked to the scheme, taking into consideration the contribution that miners have made to society over the years.

On privatisation of British Coal in 1994, an agreement was made between the Government and the trustees of the Mineworkers’ Pension Scheme on future arrangements for pensions.

A key part of this agreement was a guarantee from the Government that pensions would be safe and would not fall in cash terms.

In return, if the schemes were doing well, any surpluses created would be shared on a 50:50 basis between the miners and the Government.

Since this agreement was made, surplus payments received by the Government have far exceeded expectations.

The Government has received almost £3.4billion from the Mineworkers’ Pension Scheme and has not had to contribute a penny in return.

And yet I understand that some miners are on as little as £10 per month.

So you can appreciate why miners are asking the Government to look again at the 50:50 sharing arrangements.

They believe that the return it currently takes from the scheme is both unjust and unfair and that the extra money should be more fairly split.

Successive Government’s have benefited from the equal division of surpluses and seem content to ignore the injustices of the current agreement.

Miners are not proposing that the Government receives nothing in return for its guarantee, which provides security and peace of mind for members; however they are asking the split to be changed to a more realistic percentage.

Our call for this Government to take action will not stop. We will continue to lobby for them to do the right thing by miners and their families and look again at the current profit sharing model.

The contribution miners have made to this country over the years, should not be forgotten.

It’s time miners and their families got a fairer deal.