Curragh miners claim victory

August 27, 1997

Curragh miners claim victory

By Paul Glenning

BLACKWATER, Queensland — After maintaining a strike and picket for 15 weeks, workers at the Curragh mine have claimed an important victory over management's attacks on the wages and working conditions at ARCO-owned mines.

Following a decision by the Australian Industrial Relations Commission, ARCO has been forced to accept the wages and conditions that existed prior to the strike.

Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union vice-president Hector Heumuller said, "It has been a comprehensive victory for the union, because the company has failed in its attempt to introduce the contracting of permanent work and to fully demarcate work practices at the mine".

The unions involved are the CFMEU, CEPU and AMWU.

The atmosphere throughout the 15-week dispute has been one of inclusiveness and solidarity, involving family days at the picket line, community work by the striking miners and a well-appointed drop-in centre for supporters and visitors — and even a ferris wheel for the kids.

The effect has been to galvanise the entire town around their cause. Without the support of the federal government, the company would not have stood a chance.

In the face of a vitriolic and relentless attack by the local media, more than 500 men, women and children picketed the train line just outside of the town.

The company has refused to order trains to take coal out of the mine until next week, even though it was free to do so from 5pm on August 22. During the dispute, the company constantly complained about being unable to load trains.

The next battle on the horizon is at the ARCO Gordonstone mine, where the company recently issued retrenchment notices to 350 workers. A select few chosen by the company will be offered re-employment.

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