There once was a company called scottish coal.
That screwed their workers onto the dole.
They dug and dug and left big holes,
Aw tae get a seam o coal.
The countryside was nice and fresh,
Now theyve left, its such a mess.
Theyve put money into a bond,
They r oot the game, weve aw been conned.
The tips are there oh what a state.
Whos left wae the bill tae reinstate.
The board o directors they ran away.
They r aw guilty tae this day
By Crusher Bill
What a great poem! It’s just a shame it’s so accurate. The collapse of Scottish Coal shows what happens when a handful of very rich men are given as much power as the company directors had over workers and communities. Redundancies in Scottish Coal have always been a common occurrence – they rolled with the good times, but when the times got tough the workers were the first to go. Ultimately what happened was inevitable – the bosses expanded far too quickly, stripped everything they could out of the business, let the debts and liabilities pile up and went bust. 590 redundancies, 17 huge scars on the landscape and a legacy of ill health and social deprivation in the communities that had to put up with them. Will these profiteering suits be held accountable for the harm they’ve caused? Only time will tell.
The full extent of how much Scottish Coal’s ex-employees have been screwed over will only really be clear when the dust has finally settled years from now. But here are a few things that have happened recently that we think deserve particular mention:
- Many of the workers weren’t paid for a number of their last shifts – this presumably despite the fact that the company knew full well it was going into liquidation
- Of the 140-odd staff kept on post-liquidation, most were in managerial roles before the collapse, meaning that if a buyer comes along they’ll get first dibbs on a new job. Apparently many are doing security shifts and other roles their shiny, mud-free work overalls had never seen before
- For all the Scottish Government’s flailing about trying to show they’re trying to save jobs, from what we can tell the extensive support so far offered to people made redundant has comprised a grand total of four events aimed at helping workers to move on, all in different places. So much for a commitment to saving rural communities
- Workers are having to wait months for their redundancy pay, and weeks to get any money out of the JobCentre. Whilst this is pretty much par for the course for blue-collar workers, it’s pretty sickening when compared to rhetoric from politicians
Scottish Coal directors and managers tried to pitch their workers against communities and campaigners, but everyone’s mutual dislike for the management is something we now have in common. Whilst there may be disagreement over the future operations of previously producing opencast sites, what should be acted upon immediately is restoration.
There are 11 sites currently in various stages of “restoration”, and more still of the 6 formerly operating ones where restoration work is far behind schedule. Local authorities should call in restoration bonds immediately and re-employ as many of the workers made redundant as possible (minus the bosses, of course). In South Lanarkshire for example, there is currently £13 million in restoration bonds. While this is likely to be only half of the money necessary to fully restore the sites (if that), that’s £13 million that could be going towards workers and improving the situation for communities right now. And how much more is held in other parts of Scotland?
It is a great injustice that while the liquidators squabble in the courts, millions is sitting in bonds specifically for events like this, and ex-workers are forced to sign-on rather than do the restoration work that should have been happening anyway.