Sacked miners robbed by company

February 25, 1998

Sacked miners robbed by company

By Wendy Robertson

SYDNEY — On February 10, 40 copper workers from the Cobar mine in western NSW, organised by the Rural Workers Union, occupied John Howard's Sydney office. The workers were demanding to know why Howard has been so generous in offering financial assistance to the stevedoring companies planning retrenchments, while no assistance has been given to the 260 miners who have lost their jobs.

CSA mines informed workers of the immediate closure on January 29. Many of the workers had not been paid for over a month.

The company announced that because of a loss of $8 million in November and December due to plummeting copper prices, workers would not be paid their entitlements such as long-service leave, annual leave and sick leave. The company owes over $10 million dollars to its workers and staff. Some are owed over $100,000.

The mine is one of three in the town. It is expected that due to the closure, 25% of the local work force will be unemployed within three months.

Meetings in Cobar called on the NSW government to find a buyer for the CSA mine. The meetings have demanded: the waiving of royalties, levies and taxes; state or federal government loans to meet employee entitlements, to be paid back from the mine assets; an ACTU campaign to ensure that employers set aside employee entitlements such as annual leave, long service leave and redundancies into an independently administered trust fund.

A brief glance at the credentials of the parent company of the CSA mine, Ashanti Gold Fields, shows that it is far from struggling and could easily pay the full entitlements of the fired workers.

Ashanti Gold Fields is one of the biggest mining companies in Africa. According to the January 31 Cobar Weekly, when the company was floated on the London and Ghana stock exchanges in 1994, $454 million was raised. Ashanti Gold Fields 1996 acquisitions totalled companies and shares worth $524 million.

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