We have now been running the series on work for a year. For its second year we present a piece on the obverse of work—unemployment. Often the first line of defence is laughter—a laughter that becomes bitter as cynicism and self-ridicule erode the dignity that remains. It is in this manner that a miner on the dole describes his and the fate of many like him who have been declared redundant. Aged 50, jnk lives in what was a mining community in Scotland, and his wife and eight children.
On pain of disqualification the dole authorities require that I sign my name on two afternoons of each week. This action apparently proves two things: first, that I am alive; second, that I am open for offers in the line of work.
This I find an intriguing situation in view of the fact that they haven’t any work to offer me, not is it probable they will have any in the foreseeable future because of the desperate nature of things in this part of the country. When I talk about work of course, I mean work here at home where my roots are and where, if I have any rights at all, I surely have the right to expect it.
Some, no doubt, will think this a sad thing. The fact of me not having any work, I mean. Others simply won’t notice, while still others, with a more fundamental way of looking at things and sadly lacking working-class consciousness will utter some such expression as ‘lucky bastard!’
Be assured, I shall not hear them. Such comments, born of envy, may get through, but they make no impact, do not register. I should know, for it is now 10 months since I last worked and there have been equally dreary spells in the past because of illness or injury, two conditions which I should imagine, are more the lot of miners than probably any other comparable group of workers.
This time it can all be summed up in one word—Redundancy. How beautifully it rolls off the tongue! This means, if it means anything, superfluous to industry. But I am not superfluous for the plain reason that the few collieries which used to be the industry in this area are all finished and one can scarcely be superfluous to something that no longer exists.