Newstan closure prompts legal challenge

CENTENNIAL Coal is facing union legal action over plans to retrench 103 workers by putting the Newstan underground coal mine on care and maintenance.
Newstan closure prompts legal challenge Newstan closure prompts legal challenge Newstan closure prompts legal challenge Newstan closure prompts legal challenge Newstan closure prompts legal challenge

Underground at Newstan Colliery. Courtesy Centennial Coal, Christian Tinder Photography.

Blair Price

While mining at this part of the Newcastle coal field has occurred from more than 120 years, Centennial had only reopened the Newstan colliery in 2011 after a care-and-maintenance period that began in 2009.

Citing the high Aussie dollar and low export prices, Centennial will redeploy about 45 of Newstan’s 148 workers to its Myuna colliery.

The remaining 103 workers will be made redundant with the mine scheduled to close on August 1.

“This decision has not been taken lightly, and is essential if Centennial is to sustain its competitiveness and market position,” Centennial CEO and managing director David Moult said.

“In the current market, Newstan’s losses can no longer be absorbed.”

Despite this move Centennial is still advancing planning applications to resume mining in the area once again.

“Centennial will continue to progress both the Northern Coal Services and Newstan Extension projects in anticipation of improved market conditions in the future,” the New South Wales coal producer said.

“Securing new approvals for both Projects will secure the significant coal resources at Newstan which are in close geographic proximity to local power stations and the port of Newcastle, and will place Centennial in a position to recommence mining at Newstan when markets conditions improve.”

Meanwhile, the Collieries’ Staff and Officials Association chastised Centennial “in light of confirmation that the company does not plan to pay full entitlements to workers over 60”.

The Black Coal Mining Industry Award of 2010 set out redundancy conditions for workers up to the age of 60 years “but not beyond” – with CSOA noting that Newstan’s workers who are older than that will need to campaign to get this award’s level of benefits.

“It is extremely disappointing that Centennial would force older workers to go to court to get paid what they are owed,” CSOA director Catherine Bolger said

“It is difficult to understand why Centennial has taken such a hardline approach. Centennial once prided itself on treating employees like family, now is the time for them to live up to these words and pay older workers full entitlements.”

CSOA added that Centennial’s refusal to pay proper entitlements discriminated against older workers.

The union has launched legal proceedings over the matter, and the case is expected to be heard in the Federal Court in October.

Centennial said it was unable to comment on this issue because it was subject to legal proceedings.