The future hangs in the balance for 550 Queensland Nickel employees, due to have their contracts terminated at 5pm this afternoon.
The Yabulu refinery workers were informed yesterday by the administrator FTI Consulting, which stressed that it had no choice but to end their contracts due to a strategic shift in control of the refinery by company director Clive Mensink.
The original managing company of the refinery, Queensland Nickel Pty Ltd, went into voluntary administration for an undisclosed sum of debt, said to be somewhere in the order of $70 million.
Mensink introduced the new management company Queensland Nickel Sales in a move that wrested control of the refinery away from FTI Consulting and effectively terminated the contracts of refinery workers, which will leave them as creditors to Queensland Nickel for their redundancy payouts and other entitlements.
AMWU North Queensland organiser Scott Martin said workers were still waiting for information about being rehired by new management company Queensland Nickel Sales.
Originally we were told that would happen this week, but then we got some information to say that the contracts would be offered, with a deadline to sign of yesterday [Thursday] afternoon,” he said.
“The hardest thing is trying to get information, everyone has questions but there aren’t many answers coming at this stage.”
The manipulation by Mensink has been viewed negatively by workers, especially the 237 workers who were sacked in January without redundancy entitlements and made creditors of Queensland Nickel.
“They’re trying to get rid of people, and trying to get out of paying their entitlements as well,” Martin said.
In January Mensink and Clive Palmer engagaed in a positive PR campaign in which they thanked the 237 sacked workers for their service. So far Palmer's media office remains silent on the future of the 550 remaining workers.
It is understood that the AWU has received correspondence from Queensland Nickel Sales stating that the company would maintain the same conditions and entitlements for workers who are rehired, with continuity of service to be maintained.