Gujarat berated over redundancy letter blunder

A fresh bungle by Gujarat NRE Coking Coal management shows they are "professionals at stuffing people around", the Illawarra's mineworker union boss said yesterday.

Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union district vice-president Bob Timbs' criticism came after several workers were accidentally sent letters offering voluntary redundancy packages by the company, which hopes to shed 20 per cent of its workforce, only to have the offers retracted when they arrived at the mine to sign paperwork.

The Mercury was told of the blunder by one of the tradesmen affected by what appears to be a careless administrative error.

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The Russell Vale worker, who chose not to be named, said he was crushed by the company's refusal to honour the terms set out in his letter. Mr Timbs said the union was also disappointed at the company's mistake.

"It's completely unprofessional and unacceptable, in this day and age, to make these types of mistakes," he said.

"They simply sent these letters to the wrong people, so it would seem like they just accidentally sent them out to everyone who applied."

Mr Timbs said all trade workers had initially been told they would not be able to take a redundancy because their positions were needed, even though a number had put in an expression of interest to leave the mines.

Tradespeople were told they would be unsuccessful until this week, when they were sent an offer of redundancy from the company.

However, these offers were rescinded when they arrived at the mine office yesterday to sign paperwork.

A Gujarat spokeswoman said: "It is unfortunate that in processing the numerous expressions of interest for a redundancy that an administrative error occurred whereby a few employees were provided with incorrect information."

She told the Mercury the matter had been resolved with the full knowledge of the union.

For the handful of workers affected, the error has been another bitter blow after months of turmoil within the mining company last year.

"It's like telling someone they've won the lottery and then saying 'no, we've made a mistake'," Mr Timbs said.

"There's a lot of emotion involved in it all, and they've probably spoken to their families and told them they're going to go and sign the paperwork.

"It's a substantial amount of money they will lose," he said.

The worker who approached the Mercury decided to ask for a redundancy after he was able to secure other work when workers were not being paid.

He had returned to work at the Gujarat mines when asked, but decided to put his hand up to leave permanently through the redundancy program because he was "fed up" with uncertainty at the mines.

He said he felt let down by Gujarat's refusal to honour the mistaken letters.

"When you see that amount of money you feel pretty happy, but when I went in to sign they just took it off the table," he said.

He said he would now be forced to hand in his resignation, or return to a workplace he no longer trusted.

"I'll probably resign, just because of the amount of stuffing around," he said.

"I thought that even if it was a mistake, they sent the letter out and you'd think they'd show some goodwill by letting me take a redundancy because it was their mistake."

Despite the heartache, Mr Timbs said there was nothing the union could do to force the company's hand.

"My advice from our lawyers is that we have no grounds to make the company give them a voluntary redundancy," he said.

"All we've been able to do is to try to appeal to the company's common goodwill, but they are adamant they want to keep all the tradespeople."

The Gujarat spokeswoman said offers of redundancy by the company were on track to be finalised next week.

"We are still confident that any forced redundancies will be kept to an absolute minimum.

"The support shown by all employees over the last four months has been exemplary and the company thanks all involved for their efforts," she said.

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