Gujarat NRE employees – many of whom had been given company shares as Christmas bonuses in years gone by – trudged into Towradgi’s Pioneer Sands hotel on Wednesday in shorts and thongs.
Others wore dusty high-vis suits.
After four weeks without pay, some of them have been forced to turn to food and petrol vouchers or church charity for their families to get by.
In contrast, chairman Arun Jagatramka and his wife Mona rolled up at the meeting in their shiny black Bentley, respectively dressed in a minted suit and exquisite traditional Indian attire.
A worker who arrived on his bicycle ‘‘to save some money’’ held faint hope yesterday’s vote to allow Indian steel giant Jindal to take control of the company would go through.
‘‘You think the worst but hope for the best,’’ he said stoically as he disappeared through the hotel door to find his seat in the crowded function room.
Before the meeting was called to order Mr Jagatramka was all smiles, mingling with his so-called ‘‘family’’, shaking hands and patting the backs of men he hasn’t paid since September 18.
Frustrated by the clear gap between the chairman and his workers, shareholder Allan Carrol, from Shellharbour, made his opinions known at the end of the meeting.
‘‘You’re up there eating fillet steak and those guys can’t even afford mince and pay their bills,’’ he shouted at Mr Jagatramka in anger as the meeting closed.
‘‘You haven’t been paying your bills for years and years, mate.’’
With the deal to make Jindal Steel majority shareholder passed, Mr Jagatramka dodged Mr Carrol’s question about when the workers would be paid.
He said he had already addressed that issue during his speech at the start of the meeting, and asked everyone to be patient as the company worked out its troubles in the ‘‘next few days’’.
Mr Carrol described this response as ‘‘pretty weak’’ and said he decided to speak out of concern for workers.
‘‘They don’t know when they’re to get their pay,’’ he said.
‘‘I’ve been in the mines for 40 years and it’s the first time I’ve seen guys not getting paid.’’
Still none the wiser about when their next pay cheque would arrive, the crowd greeted the news of Jindal’s takeover with indifference. Wandering out of the airconditioned room, most blokes just wanted to know when Mr Jagatramka would pay what he owes them in wages, tax and superannuation.