Picture courtesy of International Brigades Memorial Trust The organisers of the UK’s biggest trade union event, The Durham Miners’ Gala, are appealing for help after its future was threatened because of a massive legal bill. In 2012, the Durham Miners’ …

Picture courtesy of International Brigades Memorial Trust

Picture courtesy of International Brigades Memorial Trust

The organisers of the UK’s biggest trade union event, The Durham Miners’ Gala, are appealing for help after its future was threatened because of a massive legal bill.

In 2012, the Durham Miners’ Association (DMA) set up the Friends of the Durham Miners’ Gala to ensure that this increasingly popular celebration of trade union and community spirit would continue well into the future.

The popular decades-old annual event, which is due to take place on 12 July, is jeopardised because the DMA, which provides a range of services for its members who are former miners, has received a bill for £2 million as the final settlement of the legal costs incurred in its six-year fight for compensation for miners suffering from osteoarthritis of the knees.

Crippling disease

Dave Hopper, general secretary of the DMA, said: “Many of our members are severely disabled by this crippling industrial disease and we were desperately disappointed when a judge in the High Court refused to allow their case to be heard.

“Our case was watertight. Lawyers on both sides agreed that the injuries to our members were caused by their work in the mines and we had compelling evidence that the National Coal Board (NCB) knew that miners working in certain conditions and doing jobs which involved heavy lifting were at risk of developing this painful disease. We were confident therefore that, given the chance, our lawyers could have proved that the NCB was liable for the damage our members have suffered.

“We were so determined to get them the justice they deserve we appealed the judges ruling in the Court of Appeal, but to no avail.

“It is a sad day for British justice when a judge can decide that men who have given a lifetime of service to the economy of the country, working in hard and dangerous conditions underground, can’t have their day in court.

“Paying this bill will have a serious effect on our finances, which means that our ability to continue with the Durham Miners’ Gala will depend largely on donations to The Friends of the Durham Miners’ Gala.”

Show your support

You can support this key date in the PCS calendar either by making a one-off donation or, even better, setting up a standing order for as little as £2 a month to become a friend of the Durham Miners’ Gala, and receive a brochure with photographs and a report of the event each year.


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Walton Pantland

South African trade unionist living in Glasgow. Loves whisky, wine, running and the great outdoors. Walton did an MA in Industrial Relations at Ruskin, Oxford, and is interested in how trade unions use new technology to organise.

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