A heroic group of workers is sticking two fingers up at Theresa May and the Conservative government this Christmas. The UK Miners Pension Scheme Association (UMPSA), made up of former miners, has released a charity Christmas single to raise money for food banks. And the miners are also taking on the government over another scandal: the theft of their pensions.
Food bank Britain
In the UK, over 1.1 million three-day food supplies are given out by food banks every year. This figure is not the number of people using them; that figure is far higher. The Trussell Trust estimates that, in 2015, over 400,000 children alone used food bank supplies. Also, most people have at least two food bank referrals a year – and this is just Trussell Trust users. To feed their children, around 20% of parents say they skip a meal. The situation for families in the UK is truly becoming dire.
The Chief Executive of The Trussell Trust David McAuley has called on the government to act. But action will not be quick to materialise. As The Canary previously reported, child poverty in England has spiralled out of control. 250,000 more children now live in low-income families than a year ago. And the Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) says child poverty is only likely to get worse.
Enter the miners
This is why the miners have decided to step in. Peter Stefanovic, a lawyer and high-profile campaigner, has worked on the single with the UMPSA. The miners’ Christmas song is written by Joe Solo and is called Merry Christmas from Hatfield Main. Stefanovic told The Canary:
The miners are back and this charity Christmas single is just the beginning. Despite Tory lies and spin the people stood with the miners throughout their epic struggle of 1984-85. This single is their way of repaying some of that kindness. Every penny raised will go to help communities and people struggling under extreme right wing Tory austerity and benefit cuts.
The theme of the song is Christmas at Hatfield’s main colliery during the 1984 miners’ strike. It recounts how people came together to give the miners, by that time destitute and without food, a Christmas to remember. And the miners’ memories of that awful time have inspired them to help families in need, over thirty years later. But they are currently having their own battle with the government. A fight which they also hope to raise awareness of with the single.
Grand theft fossil
As The Canary previously reported, the miners took well-documented industrial action against the Conservative government in 1984/5. But how the miners’ pension scheme has been run by the Treasury is less well-known. Or most notably, the fact that successive governments have funnelled money, to the tune of £8bn, out of the scheme, while leaving many miners destitute.
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In 2003, a miner’s pension was worth around £41.50 a week, though some older men got as little as £10 a week. In contrast, the assets of the two funds at the time were around £20bn. But since 1994 the government has taken half of any extra cash that the miners’ pensions generated. This meant by 2008, the government had made over £3.5bn out of the pensions scheme. And by June this year, the Treasury had made £8bn (pdf) from the miners.
So how much have successive governments had to contribute into the miners’ pensions scheme, in order to take out £8bn? The answer: absolutely nothing.
Taking on the Conservative government at Christmas
The miners aren’t happy with the Tories. Not only have they ripped off the miners’ pension scheme, but they are plunging millions of people into poverty. So just as they fought back in 1984-85 against the Conservative government, they’re fighting back again. And if you do one thing this Christmas, show the miners and those forced to use food banks because of this government your solidarity. Buy Merry Christmas From Hatfield Main.
Watch the full video:
– Support your local food bank.
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