Helensburgh miners urged to end pay deal dispute

With Helensburgh mine workers set to vote on a new enterprise agreement today, employees have been sent a letter from Peabody’s chief operations officer urging them to vote up the pay deal.

Heated negotiations over the new enterprise agreement has resulted in multiple strikes and bans on production by the workforce and lock-outs by the company over the last month.

However on the eve of the vote, Peabody Energy’s chief operations officer George Schuller has urged workers to settle the dispute, The Illawarra Mercury reported.

Schuller said the company had faced extremely tough market conditions over the last year.

‘‘As you are aware there has been a sharp and sustained decline in global coal prices over the last 12 months,’’ Schuller said. 

He said Peabody had done the best it could ‘‘to build a fair, reasonable and responsible offer that is consistent with prevailing and expected market conditions’’.

‘‘We want to conclude the negotiations with our employees as soon as possible and enable the mine to resume normal production for the benefit of all.

‘‘I am concerned that the protracted industrial action risks a situation where employees will lose more in unpaid wages than can be recovered even under the most optimistic negotiated outcome.’’

Peabody is using the Australian Electoral Commission to facilitate the vote in secret ballots held yesterday and today.

The new agreement proposed by the multinational miner will see workers receive zero, two and two, pay percentage increases plus bonuses over a two year period.

However the CMFEU claims the deal would mean workers’ wages would be 20 per cent behind those at other operations in the Illawarra.

It has also said its members were sceptical of the bonuses contained in Peabody’s offer as they were ‘‘subject to logical problems’’ and the ‘‘company’s whim’’.

CFMEU south-western district vice president Bob Timbs said the company’s deal had angered workers.

Timbs expects the deal to be voted down.

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