Coal workers’ pay halving may set precedent

A number of West Australian companies are following Griffin Coal’s example of dramatically slashing pay after EBAs expire.

Earlier this year, maintenance workers at Griffin Coal’s Collie mine lost a long-running pay dispute after the breakdown in negotiations.

The dispute began in June – after a series of failed enterprise bargaining agreements – and saw maintenance workers reverted back to the existing Black Coal Mining Industry Award (2010), which was set to result in a 43 per cent pay cut and loss of entitlements and conditions, after the decision was greenlit by the Fair Work Commission, which found in favour of the move.

Workers then carried out a series of strikes in order to push for renegotiations.

A decision was then made to halt wages reverting back to the award, however workers were unable to renegotiate a new EBA, and had their pay cut.

Workers will now earn $113,000 a year, a step down from the $139,000 they previously received.

Griffin Coal’s owner, Lanco, did agreed to voluntarily pay 40 per cent more than the award for the next six months as EBA negotiations continue.

Now unions are worried that Griffin has set a precedent, and a number of other companies in WA may follow its lead.

Workers at Yancoal’s Premier coal mine – which is also located in Collie – are seeing ongoing wage negotiations breakdowns.

According to the AMWU, workers may see pay cuts of up to $50,000, as the state government refuses to intervene in the wage dispute.

The situation is particularly galling for workers as the West Australian Barnett Government loaned the miner $50 million, which the AMWU claims could see the WA Government ultimately obtain a 25 per cent stake in the company.

AMWU state secretary Steve McCartney called on the state government to reveal its intentions with the company, adding that it may be intentionally refusing to intervene.

“This loan [of $50 million two years ago] could see Synergy, a wholly owned State government entity, take possession of 25 per cent of the company, and it’s ludicrous to suggest they have nothing to do with it,” McCartney said.

“Treasurer Nahan should detail exactly what conditions were attached to that loan, and whether government is implicated in any way in driving down wages and conditions by proxy.”

He also slammed the lack of support for workers’ and the local community’s transition away from coal.

“Is the Barnett Government going to just stand by and see these workers, their families, and the town of Collie suffer because of the business failings of yet another foreign-owned multi-national coal miner,” McCartney said, referring to the Griffin dispute.

“It’s obvious the Barnett Government doesn’t have a transition plan for Colie and the coal mining industry.

“They seem determined to sit on their hands and let the town die.”

He went on to warn that these two companies are just the start of a new movement,

“We see this as very much the thin edge of the wedge,” McCartney told the ABC.

“This is going to be an epidemic across our industry and it needs to stop,”

 

 

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