A FORMER Oakdale miner has collected almost 30,000 signatures in his fight to reclaim billions of pounds of lost retirement income he says was taken from the miners’ pension fund.

The petition, set up by Ken Sullivan, 66, of Tredegar, who worked in Oakdale colliery for 24 years, has reached 28,207 signatures since it was set up two years ago.

When British Coal was privatised in 1994, the government agreed that any pension earned up to privatisation would not fall in cash terms and if there was a surplus, it would be shared 50/50 between scheme members and the government.

But Mr Sullivan says that even though the agreement was up to a maximum of £2 billion, the figure is now closer to £10 billion with no change in the terms.

Mr Sullivan said: “People are concerned about the pensions issue because it concerns everybody.

“It’s about £10 billion that the government have taken from the pension. But what was agreed was a 50/50 split agreed with the government up to a maximum of £2 billion.

“But the government are still taking that 50 per cent share. We want that money back because it’s for miners and their widows.

“It’s the biggest robbery ever of the working class. We have some miners on less that £40 a week but the government can take that much money from their pensions.”

Ken, who recently took a break from campaigning because of ill health, says he has been inspired by the support of people across South Wales since taking up the fight again.

He is being helped by fellow ex-miners Harry Parfitt, 83, from Mountain Ash; Gareth Hughes, 68, who also worked in Oakdale, and Emlyn Davies, 68, from Mountain Ash.

Ken said: “It’s hard going because we’re paying for it out of our own pockets. We sometimes get small donations for paper and ink and things like that.

“But we’re getting lots of support every time we go out into the communities. We always pull in about 900 to 1,000 signatures on each trip.

“We’re going to go around the towns and villages in South Wales this summer and try to get as many people as we can to sign the petition.”

Steffan Lewis, Plaid Cymru AM for the South East, has already raised the issue on the floor of the Senedd.

Speaking to the Argus last year, he said: “It is scandalous that the government has skimmed over £6 billion from the scheme since an agreement was reached in 1994. £92 million went to the government last year alone.

“This money belongs to the miners and their families. Government should stop using the scheme as a cash cow.”

To view the petition visit you.38degrees.org.uk/petitions/mineworker-pension-fight