Lawyers are getting their hands on a large slice of the £2b of state funds set aside to compensate miners suffering from industrially related disease.

The payout to individual miners is already pitifully low but is seems that lawyers who already receive millions in “handling” payments from the government are still charging miners up to 20% of their settlement for administering the claims.

Not only is it lawyers who are robbing chronically ill workers. Leaders of the scab union, the UDM, have become the best-paid trade union bosses in Britain also by cheating miners out of their full compensation. The UDM have set up a front company called Vendside to handle the miners' claims. As a result many miners do not even realise that their compensation claims have been processed by the despised UDM.

The extent that the UDM is ripping off miners can be gauged from the fact that the UDM's General Secretary Neil Greatrex, receives a massive wage of over £150,000 a year while compensation payments to miners can be as little as £1,800 and out of this measly amount a large cut goes to fund the lifestyle of the lawyers and UDM officials.

Unlike the larger mining unions, the NUM and Nacods, the UDM has been allowed by the DTI to pursue legal claims directly on behalf of former miners, through an exclusive handling agreement with the Government. Under the terms of the agreement, the union receives a lower payment for each claim that it processes than the solicitors of other claimants, but in return is allowed to charge up to £587.50 to successful claimants.

The Labour Government clearly has a soft spot for the scab union and has allowed the UDM to gain massive financial benefit from a compensation scheme meant for the miners. In 2001, Vendside's gross profit was just over £6m. Up to November 2003, the company had received £26.5m from the Government in legal fees as part of the miners' compensation schemes.

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