Gujarat miners remain out-of-pocket as wages still not paid

Workers at Gujarat NRE have still not been paid their weekly wage, with the company unlikely to come up with the money for at least the next three weeks.

Yesterday, hundreds of CFMEU members from Russell Vale and Wongawilli mines attended union meetings after they were told last Wednesday their wages could not be paid until after October 16.

Workers have not been paid their wages since September 25 and superannuation contributions have not been paid since March.

A worker at the mine told the Illawarra Mercury people were distressed at the situation.

"People are stressed – we have blokes who are big rough, tough coalminers in tears," he said.

"They have kids to feed and families to look after and there are people who can't even afford to put petrol in their cars."

The company said that operations and cash flow were expected to stabilise after a shareholder meeting on October 16, when shareholders are expected to vote whether to allow Indian steel company Jindal Steel and Power to acquire up to 56.3 per cent of the voting power in Gujarat.

A vote in favour would mean Jindal would be able to take control of Gujarat, with the majority shareholder required to pay the workers’ wages and superannuation.

However, if the vote does not pass, the CFMEU advised workers that Gujarat could go into liquidation, meaning their entitlements would have to be claimed through arbitration.

Gujarat has said the proposed share deal with Jindal had the support of the major shareholders and the action was being taken to prevent the company going into administration.

Meanwhile, many workers have been left out-of-pocket and frustrated.

The CFMEU has told its members it will not authorise industrial action, but has instead left the decision on whether to work up to individuals.

"They don't want to say to a bloke that he must go home, and then he can't pay his mortgage or look after his kids when he has the option to go into work with the thought that in six weeks' time he'll get his back pay," the worker said.

APESMA collieries staff division director Catherine Bolger said the situation is completely unsatisfactory.

 “Getting paid is a fundamental part of working,” Bolger said.

“Workers have the right to be paid on time. Gujurat is not living up to their responsibility to pay workers: they are being unfair in the extreme.”

In a further blow to Gujarat, the company has been ordered to repay more than $US8 million to Singaporean company Coeclerici Asia after it failed to provide it with thousands of tonnes of coal.

The Federal Court upheld its original decision yesterday that Illawarra miner owed the Asian company over a failed deal, after a challenge by Gujarat’s executive chairman Arun Jagatramka was dismissed.

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