The Guardian August 25, 1999

Oakdale a victory for all workers

The Oakdale miners in NSW have won an important victory that brings 
justice to themselves and their families. It is also an important win in 
the continuing battle to ensure all workers' entitlements are protected so 
that there need never be another Oakdale.

The victory was achieved last week when the Federal Government gave in to 
the increasing pressure to ensure that the miners got the $6.3 million 
outstanding entitlements owed to them.

The Government, after initially refusing, did finally agree to one of the 
options put forward by the union to pay the workers from the industry's 
$240 million Long Service Leave Fund.

The miners have been fighting a very determined and public campaign since 
the mine declared bankruptcy in June. It was only after a 24-hour strike by 
mineworkers on August 13 that Reith reversed his position.

The successful campaign by the miners and their union has highlighted the 
issue of what happens to workers' accrued entitlements when a company goes 
bust. As a result, a national fund to protect the entitlements of all 
workers is being set up and could be in place within a year.

Oakdale is a significant victory at a time when companies are using $1 
shelf companies to employ labour and so avoid their legal obligations 
towards their employees.

Companies have been getting away with this kind of trick for years and it 
is nothing short of criminal behaviour.

The mining union points out that the settlement for the Oakdale miners was 
made possible because of the existence of the Long Service Leave Fund, but 
Reith and big business have been pushing for this fund to be abolished and 
the money handed over to employers! The fight will continue.

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