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Government help pledge for under-threat Neath Valley miners

By South Wales Evening Post  |  Posted: October 05, 2012

Peter Hain

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MINE workers who lose their jobs in the latest round of cuts in the Neath Valley will receive assistance from the Government.

American firm Walter Energy announced in August this year it was considering laying off almost a third of its workforce at the operation it runs at Aberpergwm near Glynneath as weakening conditions persist in the global coal market.

Rhidian Davies, managing director of Walter Energy's Welsh operation, stressed at the time that the parent company of the plant which currently employs around 334 people remained committed to its operation at Aberpergwm.

Workers entered into a 30-day consultation period and negotiations began with representatives of the National Union of Mine Workers (NUM) and the National Association of Colliery Overmen, Deputies and Shotfirers (NACODS) to mitigate the level of job losses which were due to affect all pay levels.

A spokeswoman for the Welsh Government said: "We are currently working with Walter Energy management to ensure that those affected by redundancy will be offered support via the React programme and to discuss how the Welsh Government officials can support the company.

"In addition officials remain in discussion with Walter to explore additional support for the remaining workforce via the workforce development programme to address any skills gaps as a result of the redundancies."

React is a programme of funding for training provided by the Welsh Assembly Government for people living in Wales who are facing redundancy.

The scheme can also help employers who are downsizing their business or are recruiting staff.

Neath Assembly Member Gwenda Thomas and her office have been involved for some time in trying to reduce the effects of the redundancies in Walter Energy's Aberpergwm mine.

Earlier this week NUM representative Wayne Thomas confirmed 25 staff have taken voluntary redundancy at the colliery which is now believed to be looking cutting around 70 jobs.

Neath MP Peter Hain has also been in close touch with Aberpergwm Colliery managing director Rhidian Davies following the announcement of job losses.

Mr Hain said: "I was very disappointed to hear about the redundancies after a period of significant investment and expansion.

"The jobs there are priceless in the Neath Valley. They are well paid and highly skilled.

"They are exactly the sort of jobs we need. It has been a real bitter blow.

"I work very closely with the mine on a lot of issues to make sure the company survives and grows back to recruit more staff in the future."

The Aberpergwm Colliery was formerly run by Energybuild before the operation was bought by Canadian company Western Coal.

Western Coal was then bought by leading American coke producer Walter Energy for $3.3 billion in December 2010.

A month prior to the deal the Canadian company had pledged to invest £100 million into the Aberpergwm Colliery.

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