'Fed up' miners seek redundancy

An overwhelming number of experienced Stockton mineworkers have volunteered for redundancy because they're fed up, says a worker.

Solid Energy is cutting 185 jobs among its own staff and contractors at the mine. Workers had expected to find out yesterday which of them were likely to have jobs, but the announcement has been delayed until Thursday.

The Westport News understands that's because almost 100 workers want to take voluntary redundancy and the company needs to ensure it has a suitable mix of skills and experience.

A worker, who declined to be named, emailed The Westport News today. He said his views were shared by a number of mine operators.

He said an overwhelming number of experienced mineworkers, supervisors and superintendents had volunteered for redundancy as they were fed up with the mine and the way it was managed. "It is looking likely that a number that have volunteered will be declined redundancy and have to continue working there. Workers just want to know what's happening and are sick of waiting for answers."

Solid Energy chief executive Dan Clifford and mine manager Michael Harrison met staff last Thursday to update them on the mining industry and Solid Energy's financial status.

The worker said they had refused to discuss Solid Energy's history and how much money the company had lost through mismanagement.

Mr Clifford had told the meeting Stockton was bleeding tens of millions of dollars a year and wasn't servicing any of Solid Energy's debt. He said the restructure was necessary to ensure the mine continued. Cuts would probably continue if the dollar stayed high and the international coking coal price stayed low.

"They both faced angry reactions from staff to the arrogant and combative way by which they addressed their audience, with many walking away in disgust."

The Stockton Alliance - a partnership between Downer EDI Mining and Solid Energy - had overcapitalised, the worker said.

Since its inception in 2010, the alliance had spent hundreds of millions of dollars on new plant, vehicles and equipment. The mine office block had quadrupled in size. The number of management positions had grown "immensely" to support the increasing paper war and the alliance's reporting structure.

"It seems fairly obvious that the position the mine is in today is a result of this overcapitalisation in almost exactly the same way Solid Energy spectacularly failed and that the blame for this should be aimed squarely at mine management," the worker said.

At the same time, the incomes of Stockton mineworkers had reduced significantly through reduced hourly rates and changed shift patterns.

Workers were also fed up with the "ongoing bullying tactics and blame culture" employed by management.

Their union had managed only to negotiate terms and conditions downwards.

The mine had had a high rate of suicide and depression. Its experienced workforce had slowly diminished since the alliance took over.

"I wouldn't be surprised if the place shut down completely in the next 12 months."

- By Lee Scanlon of the Westport News

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