Arthur Scargill back on the picket line outside coal mining museum to support strikers

Union firebrand Arthur Scargill has been back on the picket line…this time outside a coal mining museum.

The former president of the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) stood with striking staff locked in a pay dispute with the National Coal Mining Museum for England.

Mr Scargill, who was arrested at the Orgreave pit in South Yorkshire in 1984 at the height of the miners’ strike, was president of the NUM for 20 years.

The 84-year-old spoke to striking staff, which includes around 30 ex-miners who conduct underground tours of the former Caphouse Colliery in Wakefield, West Yorks.

Staff rejected a proposed 4.2 per cent, plus 25p an hour, increase from the charitable board which runs the museum and are calling for a £2,000 across the board rise.

A statement on the museum’s website said it had offered the maximum pay rise it could, which “equates to 6.8 per cent for the lowest paid”.

But officials from Unison said the pay offer was half the rate of inflation and members “had no choice” but to take action.

And ex-miners who now work as guides at the museum claim their hourly pay has increased by just £1.16 since 2008, to £10.35.

Museum guide Eric Richardson, who worked as a miner for 50 years, said: “We aren’t asking for a massive pay rise, we want something the museum can afford.

“We need it, due to inflation. We all go to the same supermarkets and the same garages to fill up our cars.”

Speaking on the picket line, he added: “We don’t want to be here.

“We enjoy it and we’re all miners who want to pass on our experiences to the public and schoolchildren.

“We don’t want to be forced into taking industrial action.”

Posting on social media, Unison’s Wakefield branch said it was “emotional” having Mr Scargill speaking to staff.

In a statement, the charity which runs the museum said: “We value the contribution of our people enormously and the sum of the proposal takes us to the maximum allowed within the Government Pay Remit.

“We still hope that this situation can be resolved, particularly as the strike is timed for school holidays which will deny our visitors, many of them children, the chance to hear the story of mining.”

Mr Scargill first came to prominence in the early 1970s, when he was involved in a mass picket at the Saltley Gate coking plant in Birmingham.

He went on to be elected president of the NUM from 1982 to 2002 and lead the union on mass walkouts as he clashed with then-PM Margaret Thatcher during the 1980s.

The Yorkshire Mining Museum opened on the site of the former Caphouse Colliery in 1988 and then became a national museum in 1995.

The strike is set to run until Sunday, October 30 and will be followed by strikes every weekend – the museum’s busiest time – and at Christmas if no agreement is reached.