Only a few days to go: We’re raising £25,000 to keep TheyWorkForYou running and make sure people across the UK can hold their elected representatives to account.Donate to our crowdfunder
My hon. Friend is right. There is a negotiating procedure between British Coal and NACODS, and, at the end of it, binding arbitration. British Coal has referred the matter to the tribunal, and I hope that NACODS will do the same and that we can find an answer to this damaging and totally unnecessary waste of time.
I express my gratitude to the felicitous approach of the hon. Member for Ealing, North (Mr. Greenway). However, the Secretary of State's criticism of NACODS illustrates a serious lack of awareness of the fact that this strike, the first in the association's history, is related to a very much wider range of problems than simply salary. It involves the whole question of British Coal's aggressive approach. For the past fortnight I have been urging the Secretary of State and his ministerial colleagues to meet NACODS and discuss these serious matters.
NACODS had a very strong position in the industry. It had an agreement with British Coal that it alone would supply overseers. The pay structure was adapted at its request, but it has not worked out as it had hoped. British Coal offered to return to the original structure and offered NACODS arbitration. If the hon. Gentleman has influence with NACODS, I urge him to urge it to go to the tribunal and accept binding arbitration.
Does my right hon. Friend agree that industrial action outside the Nottinghamshire coalfield area does little to boost confidence in the minds of customers for coal, and thus undermines the long-term future of the industry?
My hon. Friend is right. Apart from price, people want to feel that the supplier from whom they are buying is reliable. British Coal is earning a reputation as an unreliable supplier because it has a continuing stream of industrial action. I hope that that will stop and that British Coal will get on with the job of producing lower cost coal at a competitive price.