Gujarat to cut 90 jobs

UPDATED 1.30PM: Troubled Illawarra miner Gujarat NRE Coking Coal will shed 20 per cent of its workers by the end of January.

Chairman Jasbir Singh today announced his company plans to cut about 90 jobs, most of which are expected to come from voluntary redundancies. 

It is the latest blow after a tough year for the company’s workers, who went without pay and superannuation for months as Gujarat struggled with mounting debts and financial problems.

Mr Singh’s employer, Indian steel producer Jindal Steel, took over the struggling company in October and has since invested more than $58 million into its operations.

Gujarat chairman Jasbir Singh (right) with Arun Jagatramka at a shareholders meeting in October. Picture SYLVIA LIBER.

However, Mr Singh said production costs, global markets and delayed expansion approvals meant ‘‘significant operational changes’’ were necessary.

‘‘Coming on top of the recent turmoil with employee’s wages and the fight to keep the mines operational, this is a bitter blow but one that is necessary for the sustainability of the mining operations into the future,’’ Mr Singh said.

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He said most of the job losses would come from voluntary redundancies or natural attrition, and that the company would ‘‘make every effort to keep forced redundancies to an absolute minimum’’.

It is understood Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union officials first heard about the redundancies on Tuesday, while workers were given the news starting from the first shift on Wednesday morning.

CFMEU south western district secretary Graham White said he was now working to ensure any job losses did not affect safety or the mines’ ability to operate.

He said CFMEU members’ jobs were essential and therefore unlikely to be widely affected by redundancies, however the union had asked the company to provide all workers with their redundancy payout figures after the tumultuous past year.

Mr White also said he agreed with Mr Singh’s statement that some job losses were necessary to keep Gujarat running in the long term.

‘‘I’m impressed that [majority shareholder] Jindal Steel has got some direction about where they are going and that they have got some long term plans,’’ he said.

‘‘This isn’t unexpected in that sense, because if they’re going to survive long term, they were going to have to do something like this and get to the real number of what it costs to operate a significant business like this.’’

‘‘There’s no use having a job now if it isn’t going to be there in the future.’’

Workers have until December 23 to submit expressions of interest in the redundancies, before decisions on which jobs will go are made on January 10.

Redundant workers will leave the company by January 17.

Mr White said he was confident any employees who chose to take up a redundancy offer would be paid what they were owed under Gujarat’s new management.

A spokeswoman for the Association of Professional Engineers, Scientists and Managers Australia (APESMA), which looks after nearly 100 workers at Gujarat said members ‘‘would have to weigh up their options’’ following the redundancy announcement.

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