Australia not Bangladesh: unions to take action over enterprise agreement

Unions at the Port Waratah Coal Services say industrial action will take place on Sunday if meetings today with management fail to resolve a ten month dispute.

More than 200 Port Waratah Coal Services workers voted to take action after failing to agree with conditions in new enterprise agreements.

Maritime Union of Australia branch secretary Mick Forbes said the vote for industrial action had been overwhelming.

Forbes said PWCS wants to change enterprise bargaining clauses related to dispute settlement and contracting

Forbes described the proposed changes as “union busting”.

The union says ten months of talks over a new enterprise agreement have stalled and have accused PWCS of using “anti-union proposals” that seek to “undermine the safety and health of workers, tear up long-standing settlement procedure of contract issues, and radically change the scope of matters that can be arbitrated.”

“Rio Tinto and PWCS need to understand that Australia is not Bangladesh,” said Ian Bray, the assistant secretary of the MUA said in a statement.

“In Australia, we have standards established over many years to make sure workers’ have a voice, a decent standard of living and, most important, a safety and health regime so their life and limbs are safeguarded.”

A spokesperson for PWCS told Australian Mining the company hopes ‘meaningful progress’ would be made in today’s meeting which would halt any industrial action.

“PWCS has been negotiating in good faith since July last year,” the spokesperson said.

“There is nothing that PWCS is proposing or seeking to negotiate in the new agreement that does not respect the rights of employees to belong to a union, or to be represented collectively.”

PWCS said contingency plans are in place should the strikes go ahead to mitigate impacts to the local supply chain.

The industrial action will see an indefinite stoppage of overtime and a ban on shift changeovers.

The Australian Manufacturing Workers Union's Daniel Wallace says it has been a long time coming.

"We've had over 40 meetings with the company that's stretched over 10 months of negotiations,” he said.

“It comes to the point where the company's refusing to pretty much honour the existing agreement in the new agreement for the next few years.

"The action, it's not catastrophic, it's just saying there'll be a ban on overtime in the workplace."

Image: theage.com

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