Gujarat miners walk off the job

Workers who had opted to stay on at two Gujarat-owned mines in the Illawarra despite not being paid for over four weeks announced they would strike if the money did not hit their accounts by midnight last night.

The CFMEU said members voted in favour of strike action at Wongawilli and Russell Vale mines if wages owed to them did not materialise.

CFMEU southwestern district vice president Bob Timbs said he had not heard from the company’s new majority stakeholder Jindal Steel after a vote last week saw shareholders vote unanimously to allow the Indian company to buy up to 53.63 per cent of Gujarat shares.

The deal was expected to inject $68.8 million of new capital into the company, and once debts are paid, $18.7 million will be left for Gujarat to pay its workers and suppliers.

However, The Illawarra Mercury said that workers could be left payless as reports emerge that Gujarat owes more than $8 million to the Australian Taxation Office, which has put a garnishee order on the company's bank accounts.

"I'm yet to be formally briefed, but am hopeful that some sanity will come out of the ATO," Timbs said.

"If that fails, I hope the company will put money into [the CFMEU's] hardship fund – which we used to pay workers a couple of weeks ago."

Local suppliers in the region have also spoken about the hardship they face around not being paid for services rendered.

One man said the company owes him close to $100,000.

"There's a lot of suppliers, small and large, who are in the same position as the workers," he said.

"Anecdotally, I think there would be about the same amount of people in those companies as there is working at the pit.

"The feeling from most small suppliers is that our access to work would be restricted if we were to take legal action.”

It is believed the Australian Securities and Investments Commission is investigating Gujarat NRE.

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