Hundreds of miners have been denied lump sum pay-offs following the closure of Daw Mill Colliery and face losing up to £18,000 or more in redundancy and pensions.
Former pit workers at the last colliery in the West Midlands have revealed that they have lost out on lump sum payouts amid fears UK Coal will go bust – and are currently being paid weekly for a 12-week period.
But the workers fear they will be left thousands of pounds out of pocket in the event of UK Coal’s insolvency, and will also see their pensions hit if the Pension Protection Fund (PPF) is called in.
Former miners say they also face losing fuel concessionary allowances, will lose pension perks and will suffer a halving of widow’s pension payments.
Union officials from the North Warwickshire colliery, which was forced to close following a huge underground blaze in February, revealed the extent of the financial turmoil facing up to 650 former Daw Mill workers.
Dave Meuse, Daw Mill Union of Democratic Mineworkers (UDM) branch secretary, said: “May 31 was the end of the 90-day consultation period – during that period we were on 60 per cent of basic salary.
“We got a letter telling us that we were on notification of redundancy. It is a week for every year of service to a maximum of 12 weeks. In the past, you have always got a lump sum but because UK Coal have not got the money they have been paying us weekly.
“The reason they have not paid us a lump sum is because they know that at some stage they are going to go insolvent. If they had paid us a lump sum, it would have cost them a lot of money.”
Tom Gay, area secretary for the UDM with 33 years’ service at Daw Mill, said: “We went to see the Pension Protection Fund and they have said that when this company goes down, they will take on the pension schemes and will pay 90 per cent of the pensions to the men.
“We believe they are already technically insolvent. What they are doing may be legal but it is not moral, and it is messing up people’s lives.”
Union leaders fear that ex-workers could lose up to £18,000 if they end up with statutory redundancy – and the loss of thousands more from their pensions.
Mr Gay said: “The guy at the PPF has said that we will be lucky to get five pence in the pound as creditors (in the event of insolvency). There is a lot of anger and bitterness.”
Mr Meuse added: “This will carry on for up to another 10 weeks or until the axe falls and we will be left with just statutory redundancy. Less than 100 men have got jobs. There are around 550 people just kicking their heels in limbo.
“These lads want to work – they have worked all their lives.”
John Moffat of the National Association of Colliery Overmen, Deputies and Shotfirers union, said: “We realise our mining days are over but we want what we are owed and it does not look as if we are going to get it.
"People have been in limbo for four months – they are just sitting at home and they are people used to working six, seven days a week.”
In a statement, Andrew Mackintosh, Director of Communications at UK Coal said: “I am really disappointed at the inaccuracy of some of these comments and totally reject some of the allegations. We did not want to be in this situation. It is the result of a major fire which cost the company a third of its business almost overnight.
“Of the 650 colleagues affected by the closure, we have worked hard to minimise the impact on as many as possible. All those affected have been at home since the end of February and we have paid them 60 per cent of their salary as we try to save the rest of the business and the remaining 2,000 jobs. Compare that with the 2,000 national retail jobs lost this week where I doubt many of them would receive 60 per cent of their salary for being at home while their companies seek a way forward.
“We have found work for 120 Daw Mill colleagues at our other deep mines and a further 35 have found work externally thanks to our efforts in partnership with Job Centre Plus and North Warwickshire District Council.
“To say we are incompetent is quite outrageous. Despite Daw Mill not being profitable for most of the recent years, we invested hundreds of millions of pounds to try and secure its future, most of which was lost in the fire.
“We are still looking at reducing the 343 Daw Mill colleagues at risk of redundancy.”