‘No guarantees’ for Bingera
ABOUT 100 workers at Bingera Mill fear for their livelihoods, with Bundaberg Sugar unable to guarantee their jobs past 2010.
The season ended last week with a total of 1.511 million tonnes crushed, but Bundaberg Sugar general manager Ray Hatt said that figure was only 75% of what was needed to keep both Millaquin and Bingera mills in operation.
“If we can get back to crushing 2 million tonnes, we can keep both mills open,” Mr Hatt said.
“With 1.5 million tonnes, you can’t justify two factories — but we are keeping Bingera open (in 2010) because we know we have the cane coming next year.”
However, he could offer no guarantee what would happen after that.
“It will definitely open next year but we can’t guarantee after that — we are taking it year by year,” he said.
“(With high sugar prices), we will get a partial recovery, but whether it’s enough to keep Bingera open, who knows?”
He said high sugar prices were encouraging growers back to planting cane with an extra 1700 hectares planted for next season.
But despite improving prices, the parched landscape could be another nail in the coffin of the Bundaberg mill.
Mr Hatt said it was a positive sign to see more land available, but without rain it would be a fruitless venture.
“If there is good rain, we could get in excess of 1.6 million tonnes next year,” Mr Hatt said.
“If we don’t get rain, growers will have used all of their water allocations and won’t be able to irrigate — then we could have a serious problem.”
Australian Workers’ Union organiser Tony Beers said every time he went to the mill, workers raised concerns about its closure.
“Every time I speak to them, they worry about it, and you can’t blame them,” Mr Beers said.
“Workers should be concerned about their jobs if the company can’t guarantee their work for more than a year.”
He said it was unfair that Bingera workers were living under a “regime of fear” about their jobs.