Queensland coal strike suspended
By Bill Mason
BRISBANE — Striking unionists at the Dalrymple Bay coal loading terminal near Mackay voted on June 21 to return to work from June 23, to allow a hearing by the Australian Industrial Relations Commission to proceed on their demand to belong to the union of their choice.
The workers, members of the Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union (CFMEU), had shut down the port for 10 days over the decision by the Queensland Industrial Relations Commission to award exclusive coverage of the port to the Australian Workers Union.
This was despite an AIRC ballot showing that 80% of the workers wanted to be covered by the CFMEU. The CFMEU has applied to the AIRC for an order giving federal award coverage to the port work force.
Following announcement of the vote, CFMEU president John Maitland said on June 18: "This ballot is an outstanding result, as it occurred despite the QIRC handing down its decision against us, as well as efforts by the terminal management to dissuade employees from exercising their democratic right to vote for the union of their choice."
The CFMEU had moved to impose work bans and stoppages at coal fields in the Bowen Basin, and at other ports and mines around the country in support of the Port Dalrymple workers.
The CFMEU picket line had been recognised by the ACTU, and other union members at the terminal had agreed not to do the work of strikers.
Maitland condemned the role of mining giant CRA, a key player in the consortium which owns the port terminal, for engineering the dispute to take advantage of the Howard government's new anti-union laws. He vowed to take on CRA to determine whether workers had the right to freedom of association.
The union has warned of a national coal industry strike if any Dalrymple workers are sacked for not returning to work.