MINING unions have been hit by a delay to their claim for members’ suffering problems with their knees.
The Durham Colliery Mechanics’ Association (DCM) and the Durham Miners’ Association (DMA) were due to travel to London next month, to follow the next stage of a legal fight with the Government.
The mechanics’ trust is representing 135 and the association 200 members who say their knees were damaged while working in collieries, or who now suffer conditions caused by their former jobs.
The groups, along with others from across the country, were told a year ago their lead cases for osteoarthritis were barred because they breached the time limit for taking them to court.
Refusing to give up, the organisations applied to the Court of Appeal in the hope it would allow them to continue the fight.
Leaders were due to travel to London on February 21 for the next hearing, hoping to discover the decision would be overturned. However, they have now been told a new date will have to be scheduled.
DCM chairman Terry Watkin, who lives in Sunderland and was an electrician at Silksworth and Wearmouth pits, said: “I’m disappointed because it’s taken a long time and it’s the uncertainty.
“Our members find it difficult to walk and use stairs, particularly going downstairs.
“They find it difficult to get in and out the bath and have had to have showers fitted.
“They also want to play with their grandchildren or ride bikes and, while it tends to be older people, they don’t have the mobility they would have otherwise had.
“We have a lot of people on benefit in this area and it’s these kinds of cases that cause people to be on benefit, so there’s a social welfare side to it.”
When the case is relisted, Mr Watkin will be accompanied to London by outreach worker Keith Lamb, from Hetton, who worked at Elemore, Eppleton and Westoe Collieries, and administrator Jim Perry, now a councillor for Hebburn.
The case was originally against the Department for Work and Pensions, which took on responsibility for the Coal Authority’s employment legacy, but has now passed to the Department for Energy and Climate Change (DECC).
A spokesman for DECC said: “We can confirm that the claimants’ appeal was listed to be heard in mid-February, but we understand the Court of Appeal is likely to postpone the date.”
He said the department was unable to comment further because of ongoing legal proceedings.