Some much-needed financial relief for unpaid Gujarat NRE Coking Coal miners is on its way, with their union yesterday securing short-term hardship payments.
CFMEU mining and energy division district vice-president Bob Timbs told the Mercury yesterday workers would be likely to receive about 1½ weeks' pay from Gujarat by no later than next week.
The payments will come after the union brokered a deal between the mining company and the NSW Long Service Leave Corporation, Mr Timbs said.
"We've been working with the Long Service Leave Corporation to free up some reimbursements for Gujarat to use, on the strict condition they are used only to pay workers," he said.
"The company says they will be working from now on to finalise the payments and get them to workers as soon as they can."
Mr Timbs said the payments were designed to give short-term assistance to workers, who have not been paid since September 18, until Gujarat shareholders vote on a possible Jindal Steel and Power takeover deal on October 16.
After weeks of trying to contact Gujarat NRE management, Mr Timbs yesterday managed to phone executive chairman Arun Jagatramka, who is overseas.
He said Mr Jagatramka had committed to consultation with the union in the coming weeks.
"I spoke at length with Arun with regards to the ongoing operations of the two NRE mines," Mr Timbs said.
"But that conversation left a lot of unanswered questions and now I'm seeking a meeting with Jindal representatives, who appear to be holding the ball at the moment."
Mr Timbs also said the CFMEU's ability to help its members had been limited by a lack of consultation with the company.
"Our union has never seen anything like this or encountered a situation of this scale before," he said.
"The dynamics of it change from day to day, minute to minute at the moment and we haven't been able to put things in place to help our members ... because there is no use us making statements before we knew what was going on.
"Honestly it's gut-wrenching to watch them go through this. The uncertainty of their future employment and when they are going to be paid next is destroying them and sending vast anxieties throughout the workforce."
He said the union planned to hold a mass meeting at the Fraternity Club at 9.30 on Tuesday morning to give miners the chance to talk to financial advisors and local politicians about their situation.
"We've also got AusHelp coming along, which was set up by the federal government for miners and blue collar workers to talk about stress and suicide prevention," he said.
"We're also going to set up a helpline for the guys, and get someone to speak to them about men's health with regards to stress."