24 Sep 2012

Mine workers urge Government to put in cash

5:42 pm on 24 September 2012

Solid Energy workers hope to present a plan to the Government this week to keep the company's Spring Creek Mine on the West Coast open.

They announced their intentions before Solid Energy itself announced on Monday afternoon it is to cut 448 jobs throughout its operations as it restructures to cope with the global downturn in coal sales.

Spring Creek will be put into maintenance mode, with 222 jobs proposed to be cut, leaving about 30 workers for the mine's upkeep.

The company also confirmed job cuts at Huntly East underground mine. As well 163, or half, of its corporate and support jobs will go.

The miners will go to Parliament on Tuesday to present a joint plan prepared by the management and workers.

The plan urges the Government to give about $35 million to the Spring Creek mine and about $8 million to improve ventilation at Huntly East.

Ged O'Connell of the Engineering, Printing and Manufacturing Union says it makes long-term economic sense for the Government to contribute money, as the sole shareholder. He says without such investment, Spring Creek Mine will have to close.

"The proposal by the company was that they needed $70 million. This plan is a bit of a half-way house.

"It suggests that we can get some coal out, get some revenue and develop the mine at the same time, and it's not quite as difficult for the Government, which is the shareholder in this case."

Spring Creek miner and union delegate Trevor Bolderson told Radio New Zealand's Morning Report programme the workers accept that 70 out of some 240 staff must go to make the mine workable.

Mr Bolderson says money from the Government would be a one-off payment.

West Coast Labour MP Labour's Damien O'Connor says he fears the plan will be rejected because the Government hopes to sell part of Solid Energy at some point.

"This comes at potentially great expense to all those miners and their families in the Grey District."