Member for Shellharbour Anna Watson has told State Parliament that Wollongong Coal will lose her support to continue operating in the Illawarra unless the company publicly disowned plans to replace retrenched workers with a casual workforce.

Ms Watson told State Parliament that unless Wollongong Coal – which owns a mine at Wongawilli in the Shellharbour electorate – publicly commits to re-employing retrenched miners as a first priority and discharging its obligations under the current Enterprise Bargaining Agreement (EBC) it has with the CFMEU Mining Union, she will:

“…withdraw my support for its continued operation – especially in relation to its Wongawilli mine in my electorate.

“I will not deal with the company in any way, shape or form.

“I will not lift a finger, as I’ve readily done in the past, to assist it with government or the bureaucracy.”

Ms Watson said that Wollongong Coal has been one of the most chaotically run companies in the Illawarra.

“The workers have copped the consequences of management chaos for years.

“In 2013 the company, then known as Gujarat NRE, couldn’t pay its workers because of this corporate mismanagement.

“The then 500 strong workforce could have shut down the mine operations, but they instead united, went without pay for weeks on end, and saved the business.

“Yesterday workers were rewarded with the sack as further mismanagement has caused the Russell Vale to be placed into care and maintenance.”

Ms Watson said she expected Wollongong Coal to show the same loyalty to workers as they had shown to the company when it faced difficulties in 2013:

“The workers stood by Wollongong Coal when it was in strife, and I request that the company should repay that loyalty now.

“I strongly support the coal industry in the Illawarra region.

“Our coal is primarily used to keep the steel industry going.

“But I won’t stand by and watch in silence as Wollongong Coal tries to dud its workers and exploit a situation where it wants to introduce a new-right industrial relations agenda.

“Wollongong Coal needs to appreciate that increasingly it must satisfy a social licence to continue operating in the Illawarra region, as well as other obligations it has to regulators and its shareholders.

“Part of that social licence relates, like it or not, to the treatment of its workers.”

Ms Watson’s told State Parliament that when Wollongong Coal faced problems before, her door was always open to the company:

“As a Labor MP, I came into this Parliament to protect and fight for workers, their families and our communities.

“In the past when Wollongong Coal has faced difficulties, like my other Labor colleagues, my door was always open.

“I made appropriate representations on their behalf to the Government and bureaucracy.

“I indicate to Wollongong Coal that it must abandon publicly its plan to introduce a casual workforce.

“It must publicly submit to re-employ its retrenched workers as a first priority at both its Russell Vale and Wongawilli coal mines.

“It must undertake its obligations as stated in its EBA with the miners’ representatives, the CFMEU, Mining Division.”

See Anna Watson’s Private Member’s Statement in the NSW Parliament here.

18 September 2015