Zero hours contracts picked apart by union leaders at the Durham Miners' Gala

The fight against zero-hours contracts and making Labour renew its appeal to the working class were the focus of speeches at the Durham Miners' Gala

Crowds enjoying the music at this years Durham Miners Gala
Crowds enjoying the music at this years Durham Miners Gala

Zero hours contracts were picked apart by union leaders as part of a round of speeches at the most popular Durham Miners’ Gala since the 1960s.

The historic event, which is now in its 130th year, attracted thousands of people to its Big Meeting event on Saturday and was blessed with fine, sunny weather.

Long-time Labour MP Dennis Skinner warned corporations of using the controversial zero hours arrangements and took aim at Newcastle United owner Mike Ashley, for employing people on that basis through his company Sports Direct.

Christine Blower, general secretary of the National Union of Teachers also spoke, as well as GMB general secretary Paul Kenny and Prison Officers’ Association general secretary Steve Gillan.

Thousands of people lined the streets of Durham as banners from former mining communities were carried past accompanied by the sound of more than 50 brass bands.

The Chopwell Lodge banner with its striking imagery of Karl Marx and former Russian leader Vladimir Lenin caught people’s attention as usual, while several new banners joined the procession this year.

Organisers from the Durham Miners’ Association said it was the most well attended year since the 1960s, despite ongoing financial worries for future galas.

The organisation faces legal bills of £2.2m following a failed six-year compensation battle for its members through the courts.

While £60,000 was found to run this year’s event through a fundraising drive, association chairman Dave Hopper has previously said there may be difficulties beyond 2015.

However he told the crowd: “Don’t worry. We will be back next year and probably the year after.”

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