While we’re on the question of Ric Stowe and his Griffin Coal Company, bar-room chatter coming out of Collie indicates that life is about to get somewhat tougher in the coalfields and a new round of cost cutting may be on the way – with interesting variations.About six weeks ago, Griffin’s tough-talking chief executive, Mike Lowry, made a sudden exit after a showdown with our Ric over the cost structure at Griffin.No-one in Ric’s world ever talks to the media, not even Briefcase. Undeterred by this inability to confirm the facts, here is a stab at alleged events. According to sources close to the Kremlin, Mike and Ric met to discuss the grand cost-saving plan – a conveyor from the Griffin pit to Western Power’s Muja and/or Collie power station.Conveyors carrying coal require substantially fewer workers than trucks hauling the stuff – a develop-ment not likely to please either the Transport Workers Union or the Collie Coalminers Union.The new site boss at Griffin has apparently been telling the locals that cost cuts are on the way and jobs will be shed – though the reduction will be in the “tens” not in the hundreds.Griffin’s problem is that its contract with Western Power runs out in 2002 and the company faces the classic business dilemma – how to get operating costs down without sinking new capital – hence the conveyor plan, Lowry’s departure and Ric’s problem.
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