Sunday, 18 August 2013

Rain on the parade - threat to Durham Miners' Gala

The biggest union event in the country could be scrapped because of a funding shortage resulting from failed legal action.
The Durham Miners’ Gala has been held in the city in July since 1871 and this year attracted over 150,000 people, despite the area’s last colliery closing in the mid-1990s.
Legal bill
Durham Miners’ Association (DMA) has organised the gala since it began, although with no working miners the union hasn’t received income from contributions since 1993.
The association continues to represent miners made unwell by harsh working conditions.
In 2009, years of campaigning proved successful when the Department for Work and Pensions agreed that osteoarthritis of the knee would be classed as an industrial disease. Miners were twiceas likely as other workers to contract the disease, which severely restricts mobility.
But the DMA was unsuccessful in a subsequent court case aimed at gaining compensation for miners, when the judge refused to allow the case to proceed because it was outside the three-year time limit for claims. An appeal against the ruling was also lost and the DMA was left with a legal bill for £1.4 million. It has also now received a demand for costs from the government’s solicitors. DMA general secretary Dave Hopper said that due to negotiations it would not be appropriate to give a figure but said it is “considerable” and threatens the future of the gala.
‘Struggles of the past’
“We have launched a Friends of the Durham Miners’ Gala as we urgently need to raise funds to ensure the gala continues,” said Hopper. “We owe it to young people to remember the struggles of the past to make things better in the future.”
Amongst those marching at this year’s gala was John Chilton, a miner at the Cleveland Potash pit near Whitby, who described it as “magnificent and uplifting”. He added: “It upholds the values of solidarity, internationalism and community spirit.”
The DMA has meanwhile started organising Crisis in the Community meetings in former mining villages, to discuss how to support areas hit by the recession and government cutbacks that have also been targeted by right-wing groups such as the English Defence League. The first was held in Murton and there are also plans to organise advice centres for local people. 
For more details on Friends of Durham Miners’ Gala go to:- 

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