CFMEU puts miners before ATO’s tax claims

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CFMEU (Construction Forestry Mining & Energy Union) has urged the Commonwealth to drop its tax claims on lllawarra mining company Gujarat NRE, whose struggling coal miners have not received a paycheck in weeks.

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The Miners Union demanded that the Australian Tax Office withdraw its garnishee order and allow Gujarat management to guarantee the wages of 500 mine workers, who are owed millions of dollars in unpaid entitlements and superannuation, according to CFMEU’s official website.

The CFMEU threatened to formally withdraw all their workers from Gujarat’s Russell Vale and Wongawilli mines at the stroke of midnight on Tuesday, October 22nd, after they failed to receive wage guarantees from the company’s management.

South Western District Vice President Bob Timbs said the members of the Union called a vote last Friday, which turned in favor of labour withdrawal should the management fail to offer assurances and a solution to the problem by 2pm last Tuesday.

Mr. Timbs said that the mineworkers had to take a hard stance on the matter, as the company offered no further clarifications on when wages will be forthcoming.

“Our members at Gujarat NRE’s operations have been nothing if not patient with management,” Mr. Timbs said.

“They have been prepared to work weeks without wages being paid on time or at all and their super being months in arrears. They are committed to ensuring that Russell Vale and Wongawilli mines are viable concerns and were patient with a management that has asked for patience but offered no guarantees of when their wages would be paid.”

Mr. Timbs further added that the workers kept working for another week because of the recent majority acquisition and new investments into Gujarat by Jindal Steel and Power. According to him, workers were hopeful that the extra week will give the management some breathing space to sort out the problems and offer assurances and clarity on the wages owed, which did not happen.

Instead, the only certainty for mineworkers has come from the Commonwealth’s garnishee order, which means that the ATO’s claim for unpaid company tax will prevent miners from collecting their wages.

“The Union understands the logistics of the ATO’s garnishee order but given this is a fairly unique circumstance we’d call on the tax office to consider the families of these mineworkers before its own claim,” concluded Mr. Timbs.