Thoresby Colliery bosses told to lift ‘gagging order’

editorial image

Owners of the troubled Thoresby Colliery are being urged to lift a gagging order imposed on union leaders after the company finally admitted it desperately needs millions of pounds to save it from closure.

Chad contacted UK Coal a month ago as rumours of financial problems began to circulate about the pit, which employs 600 and is the only remaining deep mine in Nottinghamshire - but the bosses denied they were in trouble.

Now they have confirmed that a huge financial package is needed to salvage the industry and keep Thoresby, along with several other mines around the country under their ownership, open.

But Mick Stevens, general secretary of the Union of Democratic Workers (UDM), said the unions had been forced to sign a confidentiality agreement to prevent them from even talking to their own members about the situation.

Mr Stevens said the members agreed that the unions could enter confidential talks, but only because they feared they would not be represented if they didn’t agree.

He said the men have been left in the dark and is now calling for the agreement to be lifted.

He added: “There are a lot of rumours circulating and because nobody in the union is able confirm or deny them, it’s not a healthy position to be in.

“In all my 30 years I have never had to do anything like this before.

“We are in this position where the men probably know more than we are allowed to tell them.”

It’s time this confidentiality agreement was lifted, it’s making it ten-times worse.

“I can understand why the company is doing it, but by not being able to talk, the men are not happy with the union officials.”

Spokesman for Uk Coal, Andrew Mackintosh said he shared his frustration with Mr Stevens but said it was a standard procedure for corporate negotiations in any business.

He also said that because information has started to leak, they would review the situation.

But he said the decision to keep the predicament under wraps was taken because highly-confidential and sensitive talks were ongoing with potential investors.

Mr Mackintosh has admitted that ‘at least’ £10 million is needed and if UK Coal fails to strike a deal, the whole industry could collapse ‘within weeks, rather than months’.

“It was nothing to do with Thoresby as such- that pit it performing well,” added Mr Mackintosh.

“The issue is around the business as a whole.

“It’s because of two major factors, the strength of the pound at the moment, and the price of coal being so low.

“Talks are progressing and they are at a later stage. It’s been going on for some time.”

One miner, who did not want to give his name, spoke to Chad saying: “As I understand it, they have three weeks before they run out of money.

“Suppliers are not prepared to give them equipment without payment up front, and they can’t mine without the equipment.

“People are unhappy because they are withholding information.

“I’m not sure if the Government will help, I’ve never known the Government ever help the miners.”

It comes just months after Chancellor George Osborne visited Thoresby Colliery and assured workers that the pit still had a future.

Conservative MP for Sherwood, Mark Spencer, admitted knowing about the precarious state of the industry several weeks ago, but understands why the workers had not been told.

He said: “The workers at Thoresby have met every single target they have been set. To pat them on the back and say ‘well done, but you are going to lose your job’ is not on.

“It would have been wrong to alarm those people unnecessarily, but at the same time they have a right to know how secure their jobs are, so it’s difficult.

“The good news is that we are in a much better place than we were two or three weeks ago.

“There was a moment when I thought we were going to actually lose the pit, and to say that could be unfortunate would be a massive understatement.

“It’s important to emphasise there’s still £80m worth of coal under Thoresby, it’s a sound investment and everybody wants to see a successful outcome.

“There’s a lot of pressure to come to deal but we are still at the fingers-crossed stage.”

However, Mr Spencer admits that he is worried that finding an investor would only offer a stay of execution for the colliery.

“We don’t want to find ourselves in the same boat 18 months down the line,” he added.

“We want to make sure it’s financially fit enough to carry on. We want to extend the life of the pit long enough that the price of global coal goes up.”

What do you think? Email your views to newsdesk@chad.co.uk