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.