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Axed CQ miner takes heartbreaking message to Chinese Embassy

Workers from the Cook Colliery in Queensland joined by CFMEU officials in a protest outside the Chinese Embassy in Canberra today.
Workers from the Cook Colliery in Queensland joined by CFMEU officials in a protest outside the Chinese Embassy in Canberra today. Rebecca Nicholson

"WE aren't giving up".

These fighting words rang high yesterday as Steve Oldfield protested side-by-side with many other Cook Colliery workers in the battle against their "unfair dismissal".

After more than 200 workers were terminated from their positions at the Blackwater mine, a group of passionate rally goers gathered at the Chinese Embassy in Canberra to air their voices in the fight for owed redundancy payouts.

Mr Oldfield was one of these workers who said the hour and a half protest was a huge success which he was sure ruffled some feathers with the company responsible for their heartache, GRAM.

"The protest was about reminding this company that we aren't going to give up until they pay their debts," he said.

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The 33-year-old said the group's message soared loud and clear through the streets recalling the unfair treatment they have received since their dismissal in March.

Workers were stood down without pay for two months before the company eventually went into receivership after an underground long-wall panel was flooded with water.

The company representatives claimed no responsibility.

"There are blokes here that are still owed up to $50,000 which is putting severe strain on young families," he said.

The CFMEU claims many of the workers have not been paid their full entitlements, with up to 60 employees owed amounts ranging from $1,000 up to the $50,000 mark.

Mr Oldfield, a young father who lives in Blackwater, said the closure of the mine had been a major factor in the rapid decline of his small town.

"I've seen at least 10 families pack up and leave in the last three months since the closure of the mine," he said.

"People move to Blackwater to live a mining lifestyle where they can be home every night but now the reason why they moved here is gone."

The absence of families in the area and number of empty houses was evident for Mr Oldfield saying the town will keep going backwards if the Chinese government doesn't break the deadlock on the sale of Cook Colliery.

The CFMEU claims a stalemate in the sale of the facility is holding up the payment of final monies owed to the workers.

A buyer has been found for the Cook Colliery but GRAM and the secured creditors, the Bank of China, and the China Development Bank, are at a stalemate which has impacted approval of the sale.

"If the Chinese don't approve this buy-over it will have a major impact of these guys," he said.

CFMEU National Secretary Michael O'Connor called on the Chinese Ambassador to intervene, and seek urgent action from the Chinese Government.

"It's now been seven months since these workers were stood down without pay, facing an uncertain future.

"The workers and their families still haven't been paid their full entitlements and have been subjected to extreme financial distress."

Topics:  blackwater cmfeu cook colliery gram mines steven oldfield unions


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