Wollongong Coal miners face pay cuts as axe hangs over jobs

Steve Drain and Joe Kirkwood outside the closed gates of the Wongawilli Mine. Pictures: SYLVIA LIBER

Steve Drain and Joe Kirkwood outside the closed gates of the Wongawilli Mine. Pictures: SYLVIA LIBER

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Wollongong Coal proposes workers go without pay

Up to 120 jobs at Wongawilli Mine may be axed in coming weeks unless workers can strike a deal with Wollongong Coal to stem the losses.

About 100 workers met at the village's community hall on Monday to discuss the site's bleak future, including the company's proposal to rescind a recent 4.5 per cent pay rise, renegotiate a productivity bonus and remove penalty rates for its workers.

The group resolved to discuss potential changes to their enterprise agreement with the company, hoping to minimise job losses at the site.

"The company still wants us to give up our entitlements but we've sent back to them a few things that we want and we're waiting for a reply," one worker said.

"We're willing to give up our 4½ per cent pay increase but we're waiting for them to come back to us [on] our bonuses.

"A lot of us are ready to take a payout, whatever is the better outcome for us."

Under the proposed cuts, workers could lose up to 40 per cent of their pay; more for those who work weekends or nights.

CFMEU district vice-president Bob Timbs said workers had accepted that changes needed to be made to avoid huge job cuts.

"Although the membership are certainly not happy with having to change conditions in the enterprise agreement, they have realised that the company is in some financial hardship and that to move forward, and to try and keep some larger employee numbers at Wongawilli, there will have to be changes," Mr Timbs said.

"If we don't come up with something there will be big losses, over 120 or so."

Production at Wongawilli has stalled since a longwall machine was buried in a roof fall in March.

With the price of coal sinking, the expense to extract the aged machine is not worthwhile.

Mr Timbs, however, said he was "somewhat confident" that a positive outcome could be reached - a sentiment echoed by some workers as they left the meeting.

"We're all going to ride the storm out to the end, in the hope of a positive outcome. We're trying to remain positive as a group," one man said.

On Friday, miners at Wollongong Coal's Russell Vale site rejected an idea they give back a recent 4.5 per cent pay rise, and accept the deferral of some of their pay until the modification to mine Longwall 6 is approved.

"At Wongawilli Colliery we are continuing to explore ways to mitigate the requirement for forced redundancies," a Wollongong Coal spokesperson said following Monday's meeting.

"The underground workforce participated in a town hall meeting this morning and as a business we appreciate that our people understand the situation and are still participating with the discussions.

"The company will continue to be transparent and keep employees, industry unions, government departments and all stakeholders fully informed."

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