Some Tara Mines workers reported for duty this morning completely unaware they had been laid off.
The workers are furious at the company after it announced plans to temporarily lay off 650 people yesterday evening.
Some workers were informed of the decision at a meeting on Tuesday night; however, others found out from friends or when they arrived at work this morning.
Speaking outside the facility this morning, miner and shop steward Michael Fitzgerald said the announcement came as a “massive shock”.
“We were very disappointed with the communication from the company – many workers heard it from the Nine O’Clock News last night,” he said.
He said the impact of rising costs is well known in the industry – but said workers “definitely didn’t think this was going to happen”.
“Some people came in this morning and didn’t know this,” he said.
“Some people got phone calls last night at 9pm from other people saying, ‘I heard you’re after being laid off.’
“How bad is that from a company?”
He said the union will now be “exploring all alternatives to protect workers, with mines itself going into ‘care and maintenance’ which involves a skeleton staff keeping the facility ticking over until workers can return.
“They can’t give us any guarantee on when we’re going to come back,” he said. “They’re saying it could be weeks, it could be months – just nobody knows.
“It’s very frustrating – They have no plan this morning. Luckily enough, we have our unit in here to start negotiating; we’re ready for negotiation.
“The cost of living is hurting everyone. It might be hurting the company, but it’s hurting us as well.”
— NewstalkFM (@NewstalkFM) June 14, 2023
In a statement, the Boliden Group which owns the mine said the shut-down was due to a combination of factors - including rising energy bills and a drop in the price of zinc.
"Tara will therefore be placed under care and maintenance until further notice,” it said.
"The decision means that production at the mine ceases and that the workforce is temporarily laid off until conditions of the operation improve," the statement added.
On Newstalk Breakfast this morning, the facility’s General Manager Gunnar Nyström said the company does not know how long the mine will remain shut down.
“It is temporary, we know that,” he said.
“The combination of factors are outside the norm, but... we do believe that, in due time, things will calm down again.
“I can't say today when or how long this temporary closure will be. It’s temporary; we will continue to monitor the situation.”
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Reporting from Aoife Kearns at Tara Mines.
Main image is a split-screen showing Tara Mines and miner and shop steward Michael Fitzgerald. Image: Aoife Kearns/Newstalk