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Casuals might not be paid after coal mine collapsed warns industry body

Cook Colliery
Cook Colliery

People who do not work on a permanent basis could suffer the most after an underground resources company became unable to repay its debts, a mining and energy trade union has said.

The Construction, Forestry, Maritime, Mining and Energy Union (CFMEU) suspects Bounty Mining’s decision to enter voluntary administration will adversely impact on operational workers employed through labour hire company ABM Contractors at the Cook Colliery, 195km west of Rockhampton.

‘Terrible blow’

CFMEU Mining and Energy Queensland President Stephen Smyth is concerned none of them will receive redundancy payments because are employed on a casual basis.

“News the mine owner has gone into administration is a terrible blow to workers in the week before Christmas,” he said in a public statement. “To make a bad situation worse, workers have told us that they have received little information about what is happening.”

The proponent has struggled since October when a section of the roof caved in and interrupted production for several weeks while the area was cleaned up and damage assessed. It has also suffered from lower commodity prices.

“Receivers and managers are now in control of the group’s assets, undertakings and operations, including responsibility for the day to day operations of the group’s business,” Bounty said in a statement to the stock market. “The appointment follows a period of depressed coking coal prices, production shortfalls in the wake of the previously announced roof falls, and the inability of the board to source the additional funds required to support the company in its transition to place change mining.”

‘Adverse impact’

Bounty estimated in November the delay had caused a 23,000 tonnes run of mine (ROM) drop in production for the period, and an indirect 150,000 tonnes ROM loss for the 2020 financial year.

“There will be an adverse impact on the company’s financial position as a consequence,” the proponent said at the time.

CFMEU has urged KordaMentha partners Jarrod Villani and Robert Hutson as well as PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) partners Ben Campbell and Chris Hill to provide all the information they have on the status of the business and how much workers are owed.

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“Unfortunately, because most of these workers are employed as casuals they are likely to get nothing but a door slamming shut behind them,” Smythe said. “This is a disgraceful state of affairs. Casualisation in our industry is out of control and it makes workers much more vulnerable because they can simply be cut loose by the contracting firms at any time.”

Workers affected by the closure are being asked to contact PwC consultant Marcus Bertram by phoning 07 3257 6063 or emailing marcus.bertram@pwc.com

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