Christmas Island strikes stopped

 The ongoing industrial action by miners on Christmas Island has been terminated by Fair Work Australia.

Phosphate Resources have advised that Fair Work issued stop orders on 2 December, putting a halt to all strike action until 14 January 2012.

Around 180 miners at Phosphate Resources Christmas Island operations were striking for increased pay.

They were demanding a 20% increase in annual salaries, as well as an increase in the district allowance to $9879 annually.

The miners were striking alongside workers from the island’s detention centre.

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 said it could not afford the wage increase.

Kevin Edwards, chief operating officer for Phosphate, stated that the demands were 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.

Commissioner Cloghan, on behalf of Fair Work Australia, stated that he would travel to Christmas Island during the stop order period to assist in coming to a settlement with Phosphate Resources and the striking miners.

This move by Fair Work Australia to put a hold on the strike comes as the country sees a record number of industrial disputes.

Sixty-six disputes took place in the September quarter 2011, ABS figures revealed.

This was 13 more than in the June quarter 2011.

September quarter figures also showed that the number of employees involved in industrial disputes was 66,400, an increase from 14,700 in the June quarter 2011.

A reported 101,300 working days were lost due to industrial disputation in the September quarter 2011, which is an increase from 66,200 in the June quarter 2011.

Australian Industry Group chief executive Heather Ridout said the latest ABS industrial dispute statist should serve as a huge wake up call for the Government.

Addressing the National Press Club last month, she said the current industrial scene is deeply worrying, particularly worrying because of its growing adverse impact on the flexibility and performance of key industrial sectors, especially at a time when we need to be increasing our flexibility and responsiveness.

 "We all knew the Fair Work Act would increase union power but there has also been a discernable negative change in union culture and behaviour. This was something which we warned may happen when the Act came in," Ridout said.

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.

Rio Tinto head Tom Albanese has also warned of increasing union action in mining.

Albanese warned that ‘militant type relationships’ and aggressive stances by unions threaten mining companies’ performances and future, according to The West Australian.

"I think that we have a risk in Australia that the aggressive IR (industrial relations) agenda against the companies could further reduce productivity in an environment of very high wages," Albanese told the ABC.

"Our average pay in Australia is multiple times that of any other country in the world, even in the US we’re probably paying twice as much for the same worker in Australia as we are in the US without necessarily higher productivity. I fear a situation where if productivity drops off over the next couple of years for any reason, it could be because of the aggressive labour."



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