Christmas Island strikes may run until Christmas, miner locks out workers

 Miners striking on Christmas Island have announced industrial action will continue into December.

The miners have been striking since last month, demanding an average wage raise of 20% as well as increase their annual district allowance.

Phosphate Resources, which operates the mine, says it has been forced to close the mine down for now, adding that the wage increases may make the mine potentially unviable.

Union spokesperson Gordon Thompson told the ABC "the situation on Christmas Island is the cost of living has gone through the roof in the last two years.

"The union’s claims are about obtaining something we don’t have, and that is mainland parity rates of pay for the mine workers.

"You’d be shocked at how little these miners earn compared to those in the Pilbara,” he added.

However, Phosphate Resources says it can not afford the wage increase.

Kevin Edwards, chief operating officer for Phosphate, said it’s too high.

"We’ve produced our books to the employees and to Fair Work Australia," he said.

"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 rose any higher it may make the unviable.

It has stated that it has attempted to negotiate directly with the miners since Fair Work Australia withdrew in October, as well as carrying out mediation conferences chaired by the Administrator of the Indian Ocean Territories.

However "all attempts to achieve a compromise at a level that would enable mining operations to continue on a commercially viable basis have been rejected," Phosphate stated.

"Accordingly, the company has had no option but to issue a notice of a lockout of all employees under the Enterprise Agreement."

The lockout will begin from 30 November and has no scheduled deadline; Phosphate stating it will be indefinite until the parties reach agreement of the miners consent to final arbitration under Fair Work Australia.

Phosphate Resources has also withdrawn all of its previous settlement offers.

 

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