Coal miners facing redundancy were suddenly told they were ‘essential’ amid the coronavirus outbreak.

Miners for Hargreaves are having to carry on working - with some staff feeling they should be self isolating during the lockdown.

Hargreaves said the coal is critical during the crisis and praised the ‘dedication’ of staff.

However one worker told the Chronicle: “We have gone from facing a redundancy situation last week and getting paid off, and we have now been told we are essential workers.

“We’re in a redundancy situation. We all got the letter through saying because of the economic situation and the way the coal industry is we would all be finishing up by the Summer and the site getting phased out.

“Last week there was no demand for the coal yet now we’re to keep mining it. We’ve got a mountain of coal lying at the top of the hill and what’s lying at Killoch and it hasn’t been moving in months.

“I feel we shouldn’t be working, but we’re in a situation where we all need money. There’s quite a few disgruntled employees.”

“I dare say they [Hargreaves] are providing what they need to provide by government guidelines, they’re not stupid, but I think the feeling is we could manage for us to be sitting in the house for two or three weeks, we don’t feel we’re essential. With the amount of coal they’ve got lying – they could have a few folk loading the coal, does the country need as much coal?

A spokesperson said: “The Hargreaves Group supplies goods and services to a number of sectors who are critical to the UK infrastructure at this difficult time. We only ask our employees to attend work if they are a key worker in one of these critical sectors, who is unable to discharge their duties by working from home.

“We fully understand the concerns of our employees and have stringently followed Government guidelines by implemented safety procedures to protect them at all.

“These procedures include strict social distancing controls and ensuring the relevant personal protective equipment and cleaning products are readily available at every site.

“We have, and will continue to engage directly with each employee where circumstances require them to self-isolate and have supported the decision of each person who is unable to attend work due to Covid 19.

“Our operating locations at House of Water and Killoch are directly involved with the supply of heating fuel to homes and commercial premises, such as care homes and food growers. Whilst stocks of general coal are high at these locations, stocks of the specific qualities of coal used for home and commercial heating are low, meaning we need to continue to produce at both locations in order to ensure continuity of supply to those who need it. Our employees are performing a critical service in what are the last operating coal sites in Scotland and we appreciate their dedication to maintaining fuel supplies for as long as this pandemic has a hold on the country.”

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