A NEWCASTLE coal industry supplier is reacting to the downturn by taking on extra staff and banking on an improvement in business outlook.
Port Hunter Conveyers is one of a handful of companies supplying conveyers and related material to the Hunter coal industry. It employs about 120 people from its Steel River headquarters.
Its owner, Carol Campbell, has always prided herself on looking after her staff. And she acted on that last year by employing former union official and state public servant Mary McGill as her chief executive.
Ms McGill, who spent 20 years with the metalworkers’ union and a decade with the NSW Department of Industrial Relations, said at an open day for customers yesterday that the coal industry was ‘‘not all doom and gloom’’.
‘‘You do hear a lot of it, and it’s true the industry has had to cut costs and we’ve all had to drop our prices. But the amount of coal heading out of the port is still going up, as your paper reported today,’’ Ms McGill said.
‘‘Yes, they’re hanging onto their conveyor belts for longer and maybe not doing as much preventative maintenance as they did when there was more money around, but it’s still an industry driven by specifications and safety and so they still have to be maintained and replaced.’’
Ms McGill said Port Hunter had expanded into fabrication and machining as a hedge against the coal industry downturn, taking on another 10 workers as a result.
The former Newcastle Trades Hall Council president lamented the decline of the union movement in recent years but said labour and capital could still get on, provided both sides were honest and prepared to compromise when necessary.
‘‘As an employer there are hard decisions that I might not have accepted, or wanted to accept, as an organiser,’’ Ms McGill said.
She conceded employers faced hard decisions.
‘‘We had to make some changes here last year and retrench a handful of people. And I’d only been here a few weeks, but I had to do it.
‘‘But since then we’ve put people back on. All you can do is be honest with your workforce and tell them the truth.’’