Jindal takes over Gujarat but still no relief for unpaid workers

Gujarat NRE shareholders have voted in favour of a takeover deal by Jindal Steel, but the exact date workers can expect to be paid four weeks’ worth of wages is still anyone’s guess.

Around 200 shareholders voted unanimously yesterday to allow the Indian company to buy up to 53.63 per cent of Gujarat shares.

The deal is 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, after the shareholder meeting, the workforce was still left in the dark as to when it should expect the money.

The Illawarra Mercury reports that Jindal representative Jasbir Singh said the company was still ‘‘only an investor’’ in Gujarat, meaning it was unable to say when the wages would be available for workers.

‘‘We are doing our due diligence, and it would not be fair to comment just now when they salaries [will be paid] because it’s the company who has to come up with a plan when they are doing their day to day business,’’ Singh said.

‘‘The existing management and existing operations stays as it is, but I can say that our large investment is at stake and we are not taking it lightly, we are taking it very seriously.’’

While chairman Arun Jagatramka, who caused ire by arriving to the meeting in a black Bentley,  told the crowd they could expect “a statement in the next few days” about the payment of wages.

‘‘As a board, we will be meeting after this meeting and we will be discussing these things,’’ Jagatramka said.

‘‘The thing is, we have sort out many things, before we actually start working.’’

One shareholder Allan Carrol, let his feeling be known at the end of the meeting.

‘‘You’re up there eating fillet steak and those guys can’t even afford mince and pay their bills,’’ Carrol shouted at Jagatramka.

‘‘You haven’t been paying your bills for years and years, mate.’’                   

While workers at the meeting told the Mercury the deal did little to alleviate concerns about the future of their jobs or the financial the stress they have faced.

‘‘I think most of us would have been happy to find out more of Jindal’s plans,’’ one said.

‘‘What we’re worried about is that this might go on for three, four, five more weeks.’’ 

Another worker said there had been ‘‘no relief at all here today’’.

CFMEU general-vice president Wayne McAndrew slammed the company for failing to provide a clear date around when the workers could expect the cash.

‘‘It is simply unacceptable that Gujarat NRE has left them in limbo and could not give a satisfactory answer when questioned about whether workers should donate their labour for free next week,” McAndrew.

Before voting got underway Jagatramka said he “always treated my employees as part of my family and our current situation causes me great pain.”

‘‘I once again extend my sincere apologies to my employees and their families for the problems that you are experiencing,’’ he said.

‘‘The support given by all Gujarat NRE workers is greatly appreciated and we would not have been able to accomplish so much without your dedication and spirit.’’

Keira MP Ryan Park and Cunningham MP Sharon Bird said paying workers what is owed to them should be  priority number one for the company.

While Shellharbour MP Anna Watson will meet NSW Minister for Energy and Resources, Chris Hartcher, today to discuss the situation.

Image: www.illawarramercury.com.au

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