Underground coal mine workers asked to show up for $21 an hour

Wollongong Coal wants its miners to work for $21 an hour, a proposal rejected by the employees which is expected to lead to 120 job losses.

In an effort to save around 120 jobs at the embattled Wongawilli coal mine, workers had agreed to negotiate aspects of their enterprise agreement.

The move comes after the company asked employees to accept wage decreases as production issues hamper the underground operation.

Australian Mining understands a roof collapse has buried the longwall mining machine at the site, with little hope it can be recovered, seriously affecting production and the number of workers required.

It was hoped a new EA coupled with a new mine plan could save jobs.

However Wollongong Coal has been accused of negotiating in poor faith, proposing miners work for $21 an hour, a cut of 25-30 per cent.

Weekend penalty rates and other conditions were also slashed as part of the new proposal.

Workers voted down the proposal in a meeting this morning.

This means around 120 people will lose their jobs, leaving only 15 on site to operate the mine.

''May as well work at Bunnings or Woolworths,'' one miner told the Illawarra Mercury.

Meanwhile, redundancies are also continuing at the company’s Russell Vale mine with more workers given their marching orders on Monday.

Wollongong Coal has recently asked the NSW government for permission to start mining a 400 metre block of its longwall six at Russel Vale mine early, or risk having to shut the operation.

The company said mining from longwall 4 and 5 has been completed, and once the longwall 6 mine gate roads are constructed, no further coal mining or underground development is permitted without further approval.

One miner described the workers as feeling “beaten down”.

“They've been thrashed that much over the past few years," he said.

Last year whilst under the management of Arun Jagatramka, workers suffered through almost two months without pay before Jindal Steel took over the company.

Wollongong Coal chief operating officer David Stone accepted it was a tough time to lose your job as a coal miner.

"With the state of the current coal climate, taking a redundancy and trying to find another job in this climate would be difficult," he said.

The future of both mines and its workers is expected to be made clearer, with a statement from the company expected later in the day.

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