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Thursday, 27 September, 2001, 17:39 GMT 18:39 UK
Pit women demand back-pay
Madge Charlesworth
Madge Charlesworth has campaigned for 16 years
Former pit canteen ladies from Yorkshire say they are prepared to take their fight for equal pay to the European Courts and to the House of Lords.

A group of about 20 women visited the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) on Thursday to muster support for their claim that British Coal should have paid them the same as their male colleagues.

Thousands of women in England, Scotland and Wales have lodged claims for equal pay through the National Union of Miners (NUM) since the 1970s, but most have not yet received back-pay.

The DTI said the NUM was negligent with the claim forms.

We used to work 48 hours and I took home less than 5 a week

Margaret Robinson

The claims were made following the Equal Pay Act (1975, amended 1984) which applies to pay where a man and a woman are doing the same work.

Three of the women who went to London on Thursday talked to DTI officials while the rest marched outside the building with banners.

A DTI spokesman said the meeting had been "cordial" but that the women must go back to the union to sort the matter out.

Owed thousands

Madge Charlesworth, 70, has been campaigning for her back-pay for 16 years.

She started working at the Welldale colliery in Castleford in 1966.
Madge Charlesworth
Mrs Charlesworth began work at the pits in 1966

She said she is owed 20,000 - or 1,000 for every year she worked for British Coal.

She said: "I want the DTI to get off their butts and get themselves sorted out and give us the money we're entitled to.

"We are not asking for anything more. They have already paid some out so we're entitled to the same."

Ms Charlesworth said the money would make life easier for herself and her husband who worked in the mines for 44 years.

Margaret Robinson, 66, worked in the canteens for 35 years and became supervisor of all the pit canteens in North Yorkshire.

Further demonstrations

"We had concrete floors and walls, only painted, which you had to keep clean and keep up to hygiene standards.

"The men used to come in in their pit clothes. There used to be muck all over the floor.

"We used to work 48 hours and I took home less than 5 a week.

"I have eight kids, 20 grandkids and six great-grandkids. I've promised them all some money."

The women said they had been unable to contact Arthur Scargill, the NUM's president, about the matter.

They said they would be demonstrating at the Labour party conference next week.

The NUM were unavailable for comment.

See also:

25 May 00 | UK
'Long delay for equal pay'
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