Wongawilli coal mine to close

Wollongong Coal has announced it will put the Wongawilli coal mine into care and maintenance.

The mine's future has been uncertain for some time, following falling coal prices, Wollongong Coal's uncertainty, and a decision to sack a swathe of workers from Wongawilli and the Russell Vale coal mines earlier this year.

Wongawilli's future was first put in doubt following the burial of a longwall shearer at the site after a roof collapse, which hampered production and reduced the need for a number of operational workers on site.

An attempt to negotiate a new EA, in the hope of saving jobs, was voted down by employees when Wollongong Coal proposed they work for $21 an hour and slashed other provisions such as accident pay and annual leave entitlements.

"It would have given us one of the worst enterprise agreements in the coal industry, and would have lowered the wages to 1970s or 80s wages," CFMEU district president Bob Timbs said.

"Why would you go and work in one of the most hostile workplace conditions in the country, when you can go and work outside in the fresh air for the same rate?"

Workers claim the company did not negotiate the EA in good faith and say it was Wollongong Coal’s intention to go back to mining a single unit on day shift at Wongawilli, requiring just 15 employees.

The move saw 105 workers go in a single day.

Now production at the mine will cease completely, according to the Illawarra Mercury.

CFMEU district vice president Bob Timbs explained that “in the near future it will be put onto full care and maintenance”.

‘‘It’s been one step back from care and maintenance anyhow and we’ve only had a skeleton crew up there. They were going to do some limited production. 

‘‘The company has reviewed its position and they no longer wish for that light production work to be done so they’ve made a decision to remove those people from their positions at Wongawilli and put the mine on full care and maintenance.’’

Around 16 redundancies are expected when it enters care and maintenance on Thursday, although Wollongong Coal is reportedly looking to transfer workers to other operational parts of the business.

“It’s certainly upsetting. From our point of view, over the last couple of years our members and the union have put in a lot of work into trying to keep the mine viable,” Timbs told the Illawarra Mercury.

“It’s crushing that it’s come to the point that it’s all been for a loss.”


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