Bishop denounces plan to shut coal mines
ATHREAT to shut down seven coal mines and put 5,500 miners out of work in the Belgian diocese of Tournay has brought from Bishop Himmer a declaration that the right to work supersedes the financial interests of the shareholders.
Making the closing of the mines depend on the dictates of finance is
inadmissible, says the Bishop in a pastoral letter.
"The employees run the risk of their lives and of their means of subsistence, while the shareholders venture only a part of their money."
The seven mines are owned by the Societi Generale, a wealthy concern which controls a third of Belgium's coal production. It has received millions of pounds in State subsidies.
The administration said that the mines are to be closed because the Government subsidy is inadequate.
Government authorities say, however, the threat to close was made to bring political pressure on the Government.
Christian miners declare that the mine directors have encouraged a strike call which followed the announcement of the planned closing, The miners are still working, pending settlement of the controversy.
Commenting on the shutdown in the fight of the charges and countercharges, Bishop Himmer said :
"This behaviour became an illegitimate manceuvre if it was used as a means, albeit indirect, of inciting a strike and of bringing pressure upon the interested authorities.
"To unleash a strike and public turmoil, with all their disastrous consequences, it is required that besides having weighty reasons for such action, this must be the only means of achieving the desired end, excellent though the end may be."