- Scottish Coal announce yet more redundancies as the smaller of their two shareholders de-lists from the stock market
- ATH Resources gets restructured and looks for a buy-out
Its been a bad couple of weeks for the coal industry in Scotland – both of its big opencast producers, also the two biggest producers in the UK, are in severe financial difficulty. Once again though, its blue-collar workers who will bear the brunt of these companies troubles. ATH look set to make 300 redundancies, and Scottish Coal up to 200 again – that’s more than 40% of Scotland’s opencast workforce.
Let’s start with Scottish Coal. Since their failed attempts at stock market flotation, numerous Chief Execs leaving the company, massive debts, a 90% drop in profits, over 200 redundancies last year and their production falling by a third in two years, the UK’s largest opencast mining company has been in a bad way. Now though, its problems are only getting worse, with its second shareholder, Palmaris Capital, de-listing itself from the stock market after its share price reached a low of 0.75p. This is significant as Palmaris Capital only have shares in Scottish Coal.
At the same time as this was going on, Scottish Coal placed all of its workers (that’s what they said, but we’re sure the managers and directors weren’t) on 30 days notice, plunging almost their entire workforce into uncertainly. Now they’re asking workers to take a voluntary 10% pay cut or 100-200 “voluntary” redundancies. That doesn’t sound like much of a choice, more like blackmail.
So what about ATH Resources? Their financial woes have been carrying on for a couple of years now, but this time it looks like they’re done for. After announcing job losses a few months ago and that they weren’t going ahead with a planned extension, their share price continued to fall and now they’ve been put up for sale and are being restructured by bankers. Their share price currently sits at 1.375p (that’s pence and not pounds). Any buyer looking to take ATH over would also be taking on their 18 million debts.
On the one hand watching these two mining companies push themselves ever closer to the brink, after so many years of community struggle and direct action against them, is truly satisfying. Scotland will be a better place without Scottish Coal and ATH – they are perfect examples of big business trampling all over communities, sucking the wealth and life out of them and leaving gaping holes where forests once stood. The people gain nothing from these companies.
On the other hand though, it is also a perfect example of how the workers at the bottom of the pit get squeezed hardest. These financial problems are essentially a result of mis-management and short-term profiteering – Scottish Coal and ATH bosses rode the boom of high coal prices and an SNP government willing to bend over backwards for them, and are now inevitably going bust. You can guarantee that the executives, board members and managers aren’t worrying about their next pay cheques, they’re certainly not all in this together.
So as production keeps falling, coal prices keep dropping, the rain keeps coming (oh how they blame the rain) and communities keep struggling, here’s to fewer open cast mines, less dust and diesel emissions, better community health, fewer HGVs on the roads and more countryside for people to enjoy.