Gujarat's viability is a 'challenging' goal

UNION officials doubt Illawarra coal miner Gujarat NRE Coking Coal is out of the woods yet amid a report that the workforce was asked to take up to six weeks of unpaid or long service leave.
Gujarat's viability is a 'challenging' goal Gujarat's viability is a 'challenging' goal Gujarat's viability is a 'challenging' goal Gujarat's viability is a 'challenging' goal Gujarat's viability is a 'challenging' goal

Courtesy of Wollongong Coal, formerly Gujarat NRE Coking Coal.

Blair Price

In a statement made following the resignation of Gujarat executive chairman Arun Jagatramka on Saturday, the Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union said there was an understanding from the new management that wages would be paid.

The union said it would meet with management next week to discuss the issue of backpay and lost superannuation payments.

“It is our understanding that wages will be forthcoming for work completed this week, hence the union’s recommendations for members to attend work as per normal,” CFMEU southwestern district vice president Bob Timbs said.

“Although the understanding of wages this week is good news for mine workers in the short term, the CFMEU is aware that the goal of long-term viability for Gujarat NRE’s Illawarra operations will be a challenging one.”

However, most workers were not subsequently offered work this week, with the Illawarra Mercury reporting that Gujarat wanted just a light crew on the longwall mines and asked others to take voluntary unpaid or long service leave for at least the next month.

While employees reportedly received a week’s pay on Friday, it was after five weeks of unpaid work for many of them.

Jindal Steel’s recent decision to lift its stake to 53.63% of Gujarat was expected to provide enough cash to keep the coal producer operational, leading to some disappointment with the latest news.

“The industry has had its ups and downs so I know to keep a bit in reserve but that money doesn’t last for long,” a worker told the local newspaper.

“If they [Jindal Steel] have taken over the company, why don’t they just pay us and let us get back to work?”

Jagatramka was replaced as chairman by Jindal’s Jasbir Singh but still remains on Gujarat’s board.

Gujarat stopped making superannuation payments around March, while it stopped paying regular weekly wages in September.