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Hundreds more Queensland jobs in jeopardy -

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Hundreds more Queensland jobs in jeopardy

The World Today - Thursday, 7 May , 2009 12:14:00

Reporter: Annie Guest

PETER CAVE: It's not all good news on unemployment. Up to 800 more Queensland mining and
construction workers are to be stood down. About 400 work for a building company in north
Queensland where unemployment is already amongst the state's highest. Almost half of those workers
are employed at a coal mine where production is being scaled back.

A BHP Billiton-led consortium foreshadowed some cutbacks earlier this year but workers say they've
been told very little.

Annie Guest reports from Brisbane.

ANNIE GUEST: They were lured by the reef, rainforest and importantly, the work but with four big
companies striking trouble within the last six months many building industry workers can't stay in
north Queensland, one of the highest unemployment areas in the state.

TED SPAULDING: All of the major builders have slowed down which has made getting tradesmen
certainly in Cairns easier but I believe there's also a fair exodus now of trades going, heading
back down south.

ANNIE GUEST: Ted Spaulding owns a company called Plaster Master that operates in Cairns and
Townsville. In both cities he employs plasterers on construction projects where work stopped

A building company called CMC Pty Ltd has struck trouble, apparently related to a director being
charged with fraud and also because of the economic downturn. Four-hundred-and-fifty workers have
been stood down at 11 of the company's building sites.

Ted Spaulding says it's a serious setback.

TED SPAULDING: Well I think it's fairly huge. Cairns just doesn't need another major builder to go
down or be in any sort of trouble and yes, there will be a lot of, especially smaller guys that
maybe are owed, you know, $10,000, $15,000, $20,0000 that are relying on their weekly or fortnight
cheque from CMC to pay their people. I would think it's going to put a big dent in the Cairns
market, Cairns and Townsville market.

ANNIE GUEST: And have you had to think about laying any of your workers off?

TED SPAULDING: We haven't actually had to lay any off but we haven't replaced some.

ANNIE GUEST: The head of the Cairns Regional Council's finance committee Councillor Alan Blake says
it'll be bad news for Cairns if the company can't negotiate a deal to complete the projects.

ALAN BLAKE: The effect on Cairns will be substantial. We have relied on a buoyant industry,
especially the construction industry out there at the moment. And with CMC having some difficulties
with finance it will affect not only those people that work there but also the families and those
suppliers that rely on larger companies.

ANNIE GUEST: Meanwhile about 400 central Queensland mine workers are worried about their futures
after a BHP Billiton Mitsubishi Alliance coal operation ordered a month-long shutdown.

Staff from the Norwich Park mine near Dysart have been told they will have to take leave in June as
production continues to fall because of declining demand.

Steve Pierce from the CFMEU says a town meeting last night failed to give workers a clear picture
of the mine's future.

STVVE PIERCE: People have left the meeting probably more in the dark than when they got there
because they were hoping to get very finite details of who was going to be affected, but that
wasn't able to be answered. The company said they were just letting people know so that at least
people knew what was coming with the finer details still to be worked out. There's a great deal of
angst out there.

ANNIE GUEST: The company has been unavailable for an interview but did foreshadow cutbacks earlier
this year.

Michael Roche from the Queensland Resources Council disputes the union's criticism, saying
companies are telling workers all they can in uncertain circumstances.

MICHAEL ROCHE: I think all companies would love to have that perfect crystal ball that could tell
them what the next couple of months hold so they in turn could take their workforce into their
confidence. The trouble is for companies it is very much a month-to-month proposition.

ANNIE GUEST: So looking at all of the resources industry in Queensland, are there other jobs at
risk that you're aware of?

MICHAEL ROCHE: No, I don't see particular sectors that are vulnerable beyond what we already know.

ANNIE GUEST: So far more than 12,000 mine workers have lost their jobs Australia-wide because of
the economic downturn; 5,000 of them in Queensland.

PETER CAVE: Annie Guest reporting from Brisbane.