The coal industry has a reputation for stormy industrial relations and is often characterised as being marked by hard-headed employers and militant trade unions. Much of the attention in the considerable historiography has, understandably, focused on battles over wages and working conditions, yet miners’ trade unions placed safety, compensation and disability at the heart of their activities and campaigns, and devoted more of their resources to these issues than to wages or working conditions. This chapter evaluates the place of disability in the industrial politics of the coal industry, both in the sense of disability as rhetoric in union campaigning and coalfields literature, and also in the form of practical efforts by the unions and employers on disability issues. It ranges from the interactions of union lodges and colliery companies in individual contested compensation claims to the efforts of miners’ MPs and women’s groups to enact legislation in Parliament to safeguard the mining population as a whole. It argues for an understanding of mining disability as inherently political and central to the development of the industry.
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