22 Feb 2013

Huntly mine workers say they feel betrayed

10:31 pm on 22 February 2013

Solid Energy workers in Huntly say they feel betrayed by senior management.

A union meeting informing the workers of the potential loss of their jobs was held in the Waikato town on Friday afternoon.

The state-owned company has begun crisis talks with bankers and the Treasury, as it grapples with $389 million of debt in light of plummeting international coal prices.

The company's problems culminated in 2012 in the mothballing of its Spring Creek mine on the West Coast and 544 redundancies nationwide in an effort to reduce costs.

Some 170 workers at the Huntly East mine face three months of job uncertainty as the company seeks ways to stay afloat.

Mechanical fitter Ross Vernon says further losses at the mine, where 70 jobs were cut last year, would devastate the community.

Mr Vernon says he and the 70 workers who attended Friday's meeting have been in a constant state of worry since last year's scale-back and feel betrayed by senior management after being told they could look forward to 25-year careers at the mine when they started.

"It was heart-breaking to be working alongside fellas like myself ... who'd given up their jobs, come to try a new industry - because it's not easy to be a miner - and sold a dream. Then later on just be told, 'See you later mate, sorry about that we screwed up 'cause I spent all the money elsewhere'".

He says if the workforce is further cut back, there will be no more work for the miners and many will move to Australia for better opportunities.

Mr Vernon believes job losses would be devastating to the Huntly community as it relies on the coal industry.