Gujarat NRE Coking Coal has told its workers only some of them will be paid a week’s wages.
In a move which angered Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union members, the company said it would only pay those who had turned up for their shifts last week.
This leaves nearly 50 union members – some who were looking for other work after Gujarat stopped paying them on September 18 – without pay for a sixth week.
The union on Thursday condemned the decision, saying the Illawarra mining company must ‘‘stop playing games’’ with its workforce.
CFMEU representative Bob Timbs said it was hard for workers not to feel cynical about the company’s actions amid ongoing uncertainty.
‘‘Our members are doing the right thing, they have been taking [Gujarat’s] announcements at face value,’’ Mr Timbs said.
‘‘But even the most optimistic of Gujarat’s workers are becoming deeply cynical by the flim flam that has come from head office.
‘‘It should not be pressure from the media that forces Gujarat to make wage promises.
‘‘A company with acceptable corporate governance should be offering real guarantees on wages owed, not making wage promises in order to avoid questions from journalists.’’
The precarious situation facing workers over the past five weeks was demonstrated at an emotional CFMEU meeting at the Fraternity Club on Thursday morning.
Following an hour-long meeting, the union’s 340 members voted to return to work after they withdrew labour from Wongawilli and Russell Vale mines on Tuesday night.
With a motion ‘‘to return to the status quo’’ passed, many workers began to leave, safe in the knowledge they would soon be paid.
But minutes later, union officials had to call them back inside with news the situation had changed.
Mr Timbs had received a phone call from Gujarat NRE board member and Jindal representative Jasbir Singh, informing him the company would only pay wages for hours worked last week.
Fielding questions from his members, Mr Timbs said he was ‘‘at a loss for words’’ after the call.
‘‘We were of the understanding that there was going to be a payment made to all members of the CFMEU but then we got notice very late in the meeting that this wasn’t going to be the case,’’ Mr Timbs said.
‘‘I’ll condemn the company for this decision because there are 48 men who are all owed money, but they won’t receive it because they weren’t there last week under their own circumstances.’’
One worker, who spoke to the Mercury on Thursday, said he couldn’t afford to put petrol in his car to make the drive from his home in Corrimal to Wongawilli mine.
‘‘I’m going to be one of those guys that isn’t getting any money, but only because I haven’t got any money to get to work,’’ he said.
‘‘I only have one income and, even though my bank is being really nice and letting me hold off on payments until January, I have car loans and other things to pay out.
‘‘My parents are feeding me, filling my fridge and cupboard up.’’
After the meeting, CFMEU members returned to work at midnight despite receiving no further guarantees about when they would receive their remaining pay.
They are currently owed five weeks’ worth of wages and more than five months’ worth of superannuation totalling $5 million, the union said.
Mr Timbs is due to meet with Gujarat and Jindal representatives on Friday about further payments and the future direction of the company.
Workers are then scheduled to meet again on Monday for another vote.
Gujarat was unable to comment by last night’s Mercury deadline.