Hundreds of Gujarat NRE Coking Coal workers will walk off the job tonight if they do not receive a guarantee of at least one week’s wages from the company.
Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union (CFMEU) members voted on Friday to withdraw labour from the Wongawilli and Russell Vale mines if news of their long-overdue payment was not forthcoming by midnight today.
Late yesterday, CFMEU southwestern district vice president Bob Timbs said he had still not heard from Jindal representatives, who are effectively operating the Illawarra company following a shareholders meeting that gave them the chance to acquire majority control.
Mr Timbs was hopeful a deal could be reached by today.
However, there is a chance workers could still be left begging because Gujarat owes in excess of $8million to the Australian Taxation Office, which has put a garnishee order on the company’s bank accounts.
Unless the order is lifted, payments made to workers could go directly to the ATO.
‘‘I’m yet to be formally briefed, but am hopeful that some sanity will come out of the ATO,’’ he said.
‘‘If that fails, I hope the company will put money into [the CFMEU’s] hardship fund – which we used to pay workers a couple of weeks ago.’’
Some of the region’s suppliers have also spoken out, as their weeks without pay from Gujarat NRE also drag on.
One manager, who did not wish to be named, said his small business was owed nearly $100,000 by the company and had not received payment for several months.
‘‘There’s a lot of suppliers, small and large, who are in the same position as the workers,’’ he said.
‘‘Anecdotally, I think there would be about the same amount of people in those companies as there is working at the pit.’’
Like the workers, the manager said most suppliers had no choice but to ‘‘wait and see’’ while Jindal and Gujarat management worked to sort out the details of their $68million deal, which will free up about $18.7million.
‘‘The feeling from most small suppliers is that our access to work would be restricted if we were to take legal action,’’ he said.
According to Gujarat’s latest annual report, the company owed $59million in ‘‘trade payables’’ at the end of March.
Asked by the Illawarra Mercury whether the Australian Securities and Investments Commission was investigating Gujarat NRE Coking Coal, a spokesman would only say the regulator was ‘‘unable to comment on operational matters’’.