AMMA pushes for anti-strike laws

 The Australia Mines and Metals Association (AMMA) have called for a legislation to ban strikes that ‘offend public interest or are designed to pressure employers to cave in to union demands.

The AMMA reportedly called for the law amongst a number of other proposals it has submitted for the Federal review of the industrial relations laws in January next year, according to The West Australian.

AMMA spokesperson Minna Knight said legislation is needed to ban some strikes as existing laws are too lenient.

Following a survey of more than 700 union applications for industrial action, it was found that Fair Work Australia granted the right to carry out strikes in all but six cases.

In its paper released yesterday for the Federal review, the AMMA said when unions "resort to coercion via protected industrial action at first instance is at odds with the obligation to bargain in good faith".

"Fair Work Australia should have a ‘public interest’ mechanism, whereby it refuses to approve protected industrial action where union claims are deemed extravagant and/or against the public interest.

"To date, the tribunal has never held that a union has not genuinely tried to reach an agreement with the employer, no matter what types of outrageous claims have been on the table."

There have been a number of strikes throughout the mining industry in 2011.

One of the longest running series of industrial actions, at BMA coal mines in Queensland, has been ongoing for more than six months.

Recent strikes on Christmas Island have also been condemned by mining company Phosphate Resources, after miners demand a 20% increase in annual salaries, a figure which the company says it would be unable to provide.

Kevin Edwards, chief operating officer for Phosphate Resourcse, said "we’ve produced our books to the employees and to Fair Work Australia, quite clearly it would be beyond the capacity of the operation to provide that sort of return".

The mining company offered a pay increase of 7.5%, adding that if it rose any higher it may make the operation unviable.

In July this year, unions also won a legal battle against Rio Tinto.

The union were awarded the right to bargain about future pay and conditions on behalf of workers at Rio Tinto’s Pilbara operations after the Federal Court ruled an existing non-union collective agreement made in 2008 was invalid.

Some industry insiders are concerned the decision will return the mining sector to the industrial havoc it experienced in the 1970’s and 80’s.

Unions also warned that if companies refused to negotiate they would face heavy industrial action.

The AMMA called for individual agreements, rather than collective agreements, stating that the Labor Government’s contracts are ineffective.

 

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