The CFMEU has alleged American Anglo is advertising for a new workforce to replace striking workers at its German Creek coal mine.
Workers are carrying out protected industrial action after a series of failed Enterprise Bargaining Agreements negotiations.
The previous EBA expired in early April, 2014, and since that time 16 meetings have been held, but an agreement is yet to be reached.
“There have been 16 separate Enterprise Bargaining meetings since negotiations began,” CFMEU mining and energy division QLD district vice president Glenn Power said.
“It is clear the company has no intention of negotiating in good faith, but is simply using delay tactics to avoid ever coming to a fair agreement.”
Now tensions are increasing after it emerged Anglo American has begun advertising for excavator operators through labour hire firm WorkPac in order to replace its striking workforce.
“The firm [is] resorting to cold-calling known coalmine workers and offering them a sweetheart deal better than those offered to existing employees,” the CFMEU said.
Anglo American has rejected these claims, stating, “We are not hiring strike breakers.”
“However the mine has been operating since the strike action commenced using its existing employees who are not participating in the strike – all of which is simply the Company exercising the rights available to it under the law,” an Anglo American spokesperson said, adding, “We expect mine management to continue to do so.”
The union claims new contract workers have been offered $60 an hour or more, and an extra $2 per hour back paid if they continue in the role for more than three months, plus free accommodation and meals.
In terms of pay, Anglo American stated that it stands by its position that striking workers are well paid, and “won’t be pressured into agreeing to union claims for more money or other changes which put at risk the viability of the mine and security of employment for all”.
CFMEU mining and energy division Queensland district president Stephen Smyth said calling in “industrial mercenaries show just how little Anglo [American] cares about their existing workforce”.
“It’s not right that workers can take legal and protected action to fight for better pay and improved conditions, then get replaced by industrial mercenaries,” Smyth said.
“Anglo is offering a better deal to these new industrial mercenaries than they are willing to offer to their own employees. That just isn’t fair.
“If Anglo have the money to pay inflated wages to strike-breakers, then they should come back to the table and negotiate in good faith to support their existing employees instead of sneaking around behind closed doors and using a labour hire company to employ a shadow workforce.”
He went on to say the move will also damage the local region, and called on the community and local MPs to support the striking workers.
“These are outsiders being brought in to take away jobs from local workers. Anglo is taking money away from Middlemount families and that will hurt the community,” he said.
“[Local MP] Michelle Landry has just been re-elected promising to protect local jobs. Now she needs to stand by her word and not let local jobs be undermined by Anglo.”
The Anglo American spokesperson dismissed the CFMEU, calling the whole move “another smokescreen”.
“The idea that the Company is hiring strike breakers is totally rejected and is another ‘smokescreen’ created by the Union. First it was a strike about wages and conditions, then it was a strike about safety and now its strike about ‘strike-breakers’ – the Union have initiated this strike and they will have to be accountable to their members on the benefits and harm it is creating.”
She added, “Employees are welcome back to site on their current terms and conditions at any time.”