Coal was our life

Jones, Nerys Anwen (1997). Coal was our life. PhD thesis The Open University.



This study had its origins in a research proposal submitted to the Open University by Dr Eric Wade, the provisional title being 'The North East Coalfields Facing Change: the Social and Economic Consequences of Pit Closures". The proposal was accepted and an Open University Regional Research Studentship awarded. The research was conducted between October 1993 and November 1996.

This study would not have been possible without the help and support of a number of people. In particular I would like to thank Mike Peel, Kel Beavan and Jim Perry of the Westoe Colliery Campaign Group; Eric and Marlene Wade, Kath Avery and Christine Clark for their support, help and friendship over the last three years. Finally, thanks to the men from Westoe who agreed to participate in the research.

The study describes the experiences of a small sample of men from Westoe Colliery in South Shields within a comprehensive conceptual framework, that is rather than taking the closure as its starting point this study attempts to understand the importance and relevance of redundancy in terms of the men's life experience. For this reason the men's reasons for entering mining and their subsequent attachment to work are considered as is the increasing dissatisfaction with work experienced following the closure announcement. This study seeks to add to our understanding of the process of redundancy and the way in which redundancy was achieved with relative ease. As Wood and Dey (1983) have noted reactions to redundancy are, of course, affected by the current state of the labour market but they are also affected by other factors. The role of redundancy payments is examined and it is found that such payments have an extremely important role in easing the process of redundancy, however they cannot be considered in isolation from other factors that served to constrain the workers' choices. Redundancy is a far more complex process than many studies have suggested and cannot be understood without considering how previous experiences. influence workers' perceptions of events and their reaction to them.

The labour market experiences of the redundant men and the role of British Coal Enterprise are also examined and this study, in common with others, questions BCE's claims of success in 'outplacing' redundant miners. The men's experiences are considered in the context of Government and employers' attempts to increase flexibility. It is found that redundant miners, like an increasing proportion of Britain's workforce, are experiencing increasing insecurity both in and out of employment.

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