Businessman and politician Clive Palmer has announced his intentions to pay unpaid workers’ entitlements at Queensland Nickel.
In making the announcement, Mr Palmer blamed administrators for the situation, saying neither he nor his companies had been responsible for the dismissal of workers from the Yabulu refinery outside Townsville in 2016.
“Considering the floods and cyclones that have ravaged North Queensland, I have decided to pay any outstanding workers’ entitlement amounts not paid by the liquidators to these workers to assist them and their families in these difficult times,” he said.
“QNI Resources will be publishing notices in the Townsville media explaining how workers can forward claims so they can be considered.”
The offer would equate to just over $7 million.
Australian Restructuring Insolvency & Turnaround Association chief executive officer John Winter said Mr Palmer’s statement did not appear to reconcile with the reality of the situation at Queensland Nickel .
The business had been insolvent at the time it was closed, so it would not have been possible for the administrators to retain refinery staff or to transfer them elsewhere, he said.
Mr Winter said it should also be noted that the Federal Government had stepped in to pre-pay workforce entitlements of some $70 million.
“That responsibility for those entitlement remains with Queensland Nickel and the money remains owing, as well as a shortfall of entitlements not covered by the Fair Entitlements Guarantee, ” he said.
“There are a very significant number of creditors, including tradies and small businesses, who remain unpaid for debts owed by Queensland Nickel.”
QNI Resources and QNI Metals managing director Nui Harris called on Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk to expedite the facilitation of approvals such as port, rail and plant infrastructure to allow recommissioning of the Queensland Nickel refinery.
“Clive Palmer has in good faith today confirmed he is now paying unpaid workers’ entitlements at Queensland Nickel, despite neither he nor his companies being responsible for dismissals at the plant,” he said.
“Labor has said Clive Palmer should pay these workers’ entitlements, which he has now said he will do.
“Now is the time for the Premier and her government to do their part and get behind securing approvals so the refinery can be recommissioned and the good people of Townsville can have jobs.”