Dawson MP George Christensen
Dawson MP George Christensen

Sacked miners offered gift card instead of bonus, MP claims

DAWSON MP George Christensen has called on Peabody Energy, owners of the North Goonyella mine, to pay workers retention payments he claims the company promised them ahead of Christmas.

Mr Christensen claimed that instead of standing by their commitment of a "promised generous retention payment for workers who stuck with the company rather than move to other employers", the mining giant was planning to give $100 gift cards instead.

The company announced last month it would significantly reduce its workforce at the Bowen Basin mine within the next few months. 

It was revealed it could take three years or more to restart production at North Goonyella following last year's devastating underground fire. 

But a Peabody spokeswoman said the company had been "more than fair" in the entitlements and support given to the workers.

The company continued to employ its North Goonyella workforce for more than a year despite the mine being out of production.

"I have been told that 93 workers at North Goonyella stuck it out with Peabody over the past 12 months rather than taking up other jobs offers, often with much higher pay rates, rather than deserting the mine during troubled times," Mr Christensen said.

"These workers are now redundant, but they have been told their promised retention payment, which was in the thousands, will not be paid to them."

North Goonyella Mine.
North Goonyella Mine.

Mr Christensen today said he had raised the issue with Peabody directly, asking that it reconsider its stance, but claimed the mining company had said it had no legal obligation to pay it.

"Instead, I am told they're going to give these workers a $100 gift card," he said.

"I'm calling on Peabody to think again and give the sacked workers their bonus for Christmas."

The Peabody spokeswoman said the union representing the majority of North Goonyella employees signed a letter on November 9 indicating they were satisfied with the outcomes achieved during the consultation process. 

"Importantly, workers are receiving full redundancy payments in line with all entitlements in their EA with the average payment being $104,641," she said.

"In addition to redundancy, leave and associated payments, Peabody will be paying employees a 2.5 per cent pay rise backdated to April 2019.

"Peabody has also elected to pay out employees notice periods rather than asking them to work this period. On average, this payment was worth nearly $12,000 per person. 

"Peabody also paid an additional three weeks' pay worth $2,500 on average per week as if employees were at work during the consultation process." 

The spokeswoman said the company introduced the retention payment to retain key skills and talent at a time when it was hopeful of having the mine up and running "as safely and as quickly as possible". 

"Workers were entitled to the payment twice yearly in the event they were employed at the time the payment was due, and on this basis, workers received $6,000 in July," she said.

 "The payments outlined above far outweigh any benefit workers may have obtained through the retention payment, which was not due to be paid until December." 

Three North Goonyella workers chose to be redeployed and 94 will be made redundant.

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