End of an era as cokeworks set to close

Illawarra Coke Company this morning announced it was closing down the Coalcliff Cokeworks, a move which it said would cost about 15 jobs.

Managing director Rex Wright delivered the news to workers at the Coalcliff site earlier this morning, before proceeding to Corrimal Cokeworks to do the same.

The impending announcement of the closure was reported in today's Mercury

The coke maker, which celebrated the 100th anniversary of Corrimal Cokeworks this year, employs about 50 workers across both plants.

United Mine Workers district secretary Graham White said the Coalcliff site would close in May or June next year.

‘‘What they’re going to do is offer voluntary retirement between the two sites that they currently have - Corrimal and Coalcliff," Mr White said. 

‘‘Then, based on that, when the closure occurs, there will be one workforce at Corrimal.

‘‘So it might be that some of the people at Corrimal take voluntary retirement and they’ll make one workforce up.’’

Mr Wright said the news of the closure didn’t come as a surprise.

‘‘We knew what was coming,’’ he said.

‘‘We’ve been in consultation with them and we’ve worked amicably together to reach the outcome.

‘‘We were just waiting for the announcement.’’

Mr White said that there was almost 30 people at the company ‘‘nearly ready to retire’’ and he was aware that some people who wanted to stay may end up leaving.

But he pointed out that those workers effectively have six months of paid employment to look for another job.

‘‘They’ll have opportunities and we will go out in the next six months and try and get them jobs,’’ he said.

‘‘That’s how we work. That’ll be within the region - we’ll find something for them. We’ll work with that workforce and try to find them something.’’

A statement from ICC managing director Rex Wright was expected later today.

In his company’s December newsletter, Mr Wright noted that 2012 had been "extremely challenging". He said market conditions for [the company] have been difficult since the global financial crisis but last year the high price of coal and the low price of coke, combined with the strong Australian dollar, made it worse.

The introduction of the carbon tax added to this already heavy burden, and in August the Mercury reported that the company learnt its annual carbon liability would be double what was expected, at more than $500,000 per year.

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