Port Kembla Coal Terminal workers began a week-long strike on February 1. The action is a result of management scaling back conditions during negotiations over a new enterprise agreement. BHP Billiton operates the coal terminal on behalf of its owners, which include Xstrata, Peabody Energy, Gujarat NRE and Centennial Coal.
Management’s latest offer triggered Construction Forestry Mining Energy Union (CFMEU) delegates to take industrial action. About 100 workers had previously voted to approve a seven-day stoppage from February 1, unless management made a late offer
In a statement released on February 1, CFMEU South Western District Vice President Bob Timbs said the union was committed to reaching agreement with the terminal operators and strongly backed the workers’ vote.
Timbs said the major sticking point with the latest agreement version was about increased job security measures, not pay rates. This includes resisting the company’s attempts to dilute the workforce with employees not covered by the enterprise agreement.
Timbs said: “We are very disappointed that during the Fair Work Australia conciliation meetings this week management’s revised enterprise agreement actually put workers in a worse-off position than previous versions.
“We remain committed to achieving a fair outcome for both the workforce and the coal terminal operators, but workers will not abide an agreement that has gone backward.”
The CFMEU is also concerned about adequate staffing levels.
“During the lifetime of the last agreement the price per tonne for coal has skyrocketed; we know the operators can afford to build some concrete job security into the details of the next agreement,” said Timbs.
Further talks between workers and management will continue at Fair Work Australia.
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