Glencore reaches out to Collinsville locals as tensions grow

As tensions continue to simmer in the small Collinsville community as the coal mine remains shut, Glencore have taken an ad out in local papers to “separate fact from fiction”.

The miner said the ad aims to dispel misinformation around the future of operations in the town, local jobs and the reason for the mine’s closure.

It comes after Glencore took over as owner-operator of Collinsville mine, stating that it was pushing to make the operation viable.

As a result, 400 workers were notified by Thiess that their employment contract would end on August 31, with Glencore refusing to give preference to the previous workforce.  

The mine closed in early September, leaving 400 people out of work, 160 of which live in the Collinsville community.

Since then a rift has emerged between locals angered at the decision and the company who say the move was imperative for the mine’s future viability.

In the ad taken out today, Glencore say there are four main factors it sees as imperative to improving labour and productivity issues at the mine.

These include the introduction of larger equipment; a new mining plan; addressing restrictions to the CHPP; and the need for flexible and modern workplace arrangements.

“The changes we are making will give the mine its best chance of a long-term future, which would provide ongoing employment to significant numbers of people and flow-on benefits to a variety of local businesses in the wider community,” the company states in the ad.

“We continue to believe that there can be a profitable future for mining in Collinsville with the changes we have identified and are progressing.”

The miner has said it is pushing to reopen the mine in 2014.

However locals and the CFMEU are unconvinced, with the main argument stemming from the company’s refusal to gurantee the old workforce its positions.

The company says it is committed to hiring workers from the local communities of Scottsville, Collinsville, Bowen and Glenden with the company saying that former employees can re-apply for positions.

Glencore say previous workplace agreements are restrictive and want to re-hire workers under differing contracts which are “modern and flexible”.

But the CFMEU have accused the company of being anti-union and anti-collective bargaining, stepping up their fight against the miner by announcing that it plans to take Glencore to court to block the miner from hiring new workers.

It has claimed the miner is attempting to disband the CFMEU’s footprint in the region and negotiations between the two parties have failed to secure an agreement on workplace contracts.

Speaking to Australian Mining, CFMEU Queensland district president Stephen Smyth questioned the company’s intentions, asking how all ex-Thiess workers could be seen as ‘bad apples”.

Smyth said the multi-national miner is not being transparent in its dealings with the workforce or the town, adding that he feels for the local businesses which may not have until 2014.

These concerns are echoed by some local community members, with the state of businesses on the ground being described as ‘dire’

Mining Communities United president Donna Bulloch said the town had continued to suffer since the mine’s closure, with businesses closing and community members leaving.

 “If the locals don’t get re-employed in this mine, the town will die,” Bulloch said.

Bulloch said while she understands mining towns can go through rough patches, the issues at Collinsville centre around a social licence to operate.

"Even if Glencore only stays shut for three months … that's three months that businesses have to suffer.

"It churns my stomach to think that a multinational company like Glencore can come into a community that has been built by the miners for families, that they can just come in and just rip it to pieces," she said.

Glencore maintain they are committed to operating in the area, and say the mine will have a long future if the proposed changes are put into practice.

It has previously told Australian Mining it appreciates the impacts the suspension of operations was having on the community, but the “changes being proposed were designed to return the mine to higher levels of productivity and long-term profitability”, in turn supporting the local community.

 “The real issue for us is that the previous agreements are restrictive,” the company said.

“We want remove those restrictions and have an agreement which is modern and flexible in line with other Queensland operations.”

A spokesman said the company first approached the CFMEU about new agreements in February, but that a solution had not yet been reached.

 “We still haven’t been able to finalise new workplace agreements with the CFMEU and remain disappointed that is the case,” the spokesman said.

However Bulloch says what most community members would like to see is clear.

“What we want is for the 160 local experienced and skilled workers to be given their jobs back. Why should they have to re-apply for a job that they lost because of a company and its choices, not of their own fault?”

To see the current ad taken out by Glencore, please click here.

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