Unpaid Gujarat NRE workers have given enthusiastic backing to a member of the mining brethren who made waves at Wednesday's shareholders meeting, but sentiment was more subdued towards the outcome of the vote itself.
Shareholders – many of them unpaid workers hit hard by the company’s financial woes – voted unanimously for changes that clear the path for Jindal Steel to become the company’s majority shareholder. The development was cautiously welcomed by area MPs and the miners’ union, but has done little to set workers’ minds at ease.
‘‘I think most of us would have been happy to find out more of Jindal’s plans,’’ one of the workers told the Mercury.
‘‘What we’re worried about is that this might go on for three, four, five more weeks.’’
Another worker – none wanted to be named – said there had been ‘‘no relief at all here today’’.
Others were more optimistic.
‘‘I think we might be one step closer to getting paid’’, said a worker and, from another: ‘‘the doors are open for things to change so hopefully things will change.
‘‘Everyone will be happy once they get money in the bank.’’
A retired miner, Shellharbour’s Allan Carrol, who questioned NRE chairman Arun Jagatramka over when workers would be paid, was well received among the workers outside.
‘‘He asked the question everyone wanted to know,’’ one of the men told the Mercury.
Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union general vice-president Wayne McAndrew condemned Gujarat NRE’s failure to provide clarity on owed wages, super and entitlements, saying workers deserved an immediate commitment with a clear timeline. ‘‘It is simply unacceptable that Gujarat NRE has left them in limbo and could not give a satisfactory answer when questioned about whether workers should donate their labour for free next week.’’
Keira MP Ryan Park and Cunningham MP Sharon Bird agreed workers’ wages should be the company’s priority, as well as money owed to small businesses and contractors. Shellharbour MP Anna Watson will today meet the NSW Minister for Energy and Resources, Chris Hartcher, to discuss miners’ plight.
She said they were at a sensitive stage in the negotiations between the companies and workers.