Spanish miners stay underground to demand pay arrears

Fifty-two miners working for the Union Minera del Norte, or Unisma  company, have enclosed themselves up at that firm's only operating mine, located in the northern province of Palencia.

Another 14 miners are refusing to surface at the Alto Bierzo company's mine in Tremor de Arriba, Leon province, and say they will not leave until they receive two months of back salaries.

The 80 percent humidity and the 16 degrees Celsius temperature are aggravating the physical problems of these workers, who have been protesting since last week, said labour leader Carlos Mesa Wednesday. He accompanied the 52 men at the Unisma mine for several hours.

In fact, some of the workers have had to leave temporarily to seek medical attention for conditions such as cramps, slipped disks, back problems from sleeping on the ground and colds resulting from the low temperatures and dampness.
Mesa said despite facing the hardships the protestors remain firm in their decision not to come to the surface until the future of Spain's mining sector is resolved and they are paid their salaries for July and August.

The companies say local power utilities are opting for cheaper, imported coal and that lost revenue means they lack the funds to pay labour costs.
Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero said Wednesday that his government is working to find a solution to the labour conflict and the problems of Spain's coal mining industry.

That effort comes after the European Commission approved a proposal in July that would facilitate the closure of loss-making hard coal mines in the European Union by Oct 1, 2014.

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