The present government has made some historic progress on the question of Northern Ireland and
must be congratulated on achieving what most people thought was impossible. Let us hope that the formula achieves a lasting peace.
On the British mainland however, and more especially in the former coalfields, not a great deal has changed. There still remains a totally unacceptable level of unemployment and social poverty.
We had high hopes that the establishment of a minimum wage would in some way address the poverty question. The government has however set the minimum wage at £3.60 per hour. with exceptions for people aged between 18 to 20, and while this may well be an improvement for some workers in this sweatshop British economy, it is still too low to be called a living wage. The proposal of the Coalfield Task Force to create a £50 million fund to regenerate the former mining regions must be given a cautious welcome. We hope that any jobs created will be real and permanent jobs, adequately paid and with proper trade union recognition. The last thing we want is a repetition of the old, discredited job creation schemes.Where, for instance, is the British Coal Enterprise Board and the mystery jobs it claimed to have created? The recent announcement that the government is to look at the privatisation of the Tote, National Savings, the Mint, and the Post Office is testing the loyalties ofmany long time Labour supporters,who cannot be blamed for thinking that Labour has only taken office to carry out Tory policies.This fear is further strengthened by the fact that the last Tory MP to defect came straight to the Labour Party. In the past the Liberals would have been such a defector's first choice, but now Labour appears to be the preferred option. We can only hope that this trend will not continue. In the darkest years of the Thatcher government we were fond of saying that we wanted a Labour governmentthat would represent its class as well as Thatcher represented hers.
Unfortunately at this stage the signs are not good, but let's hope that in the coming year something will be done to redress the balance before it is too late.
Whatever the prospects, I hope you all have a great day out at this year's Gala!
In the last twelve months our union has won significant victories in the struggle to have compensation awarded to sufferers of bronchitis and emphysema and vibration white finger. As a result thousands of cases are now being formulated throughout the British coalfields.
In the bronchitis and emphysema case British Coal was severely criticised by Justice Turner when he made hisjudgement in favour of the plaintiffs. Turner said that British Coal had failed to take adequate steps to protect its workforce from the effects of dust, they had put production before safety, and there was an element of falsification of the dust measurement processes.
British Coals medical consultants were particularly the butt of the Judge's criticism when he said, "Doctors Morgan and Pearson attempted to hold on to the basis of their written reports. This was seriously in error and in my judgement resulted in both eminent physicians losing intellectual and professional credibility".
True to form British Coal did everything it could to obstruct and delay the legal process, with the
result that many of our members passed away before they could claim compensation.
The need for a no-fault statutory compensation scheme for all industrial accidents or diseases is highlighted by this type of obstruction and is even more urgent now since the recent withdrawal of legal aid for this type of case.
Party is to be congratulated during its first year in office for the additional
revenue made available for the National llealtli Service and for education.
I hope you all have a very enjoyable day.