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.