Hunter coalmine battle escalates

A union battle between Xstrata and the Construction Forestry Mining and Energy Union (CFMEU) could go all the way to the OECD in France.

The labour dispute, which started October last year, saw the CFMEU accuse Xstrata of breaching OECD workplace relation guidelines at its coal mines in Queensland and the Hunter, according the Newcastle Herald.

Specifically, it focused on the complaints regarding redundancies at Xstrata’s United coal mine, located near Singleton in the Hunter Valley, as well as its Glendell mine.

It accused the miner of ‘poor labour practices’ and anti-union behaviour at its sites, as well as ‘anti-competitive conduct’ with its largest shareholder Glencore.

Xstrata hit out at the unions, denying their claims and in turn accusing the CFMEU of anti-Semitic web postings regarding its executives.

CFMEU national president Tony Maher claimed that Xstrata has ‘thumbed its nose’ as international guidelines by refusing to hear the first round of OECD complaints.

However, Xstrata spokesperson James Rickards said the miner had not taken part as it has not broken any OECD guidelines.

Rickards went on to say the “union’s action indicate they are not prepared to engage with us in good faith”.

He stated that the union’s website ‘frequently misrepresented Xstrata’s actions and included content that ranges from offensive comments to racial vilification and threats of violence”.

These union moves come as the CFMEU plans strike action today at BMA’s coal mines in Queensland.

It has planned rolling six hour strikes for today, tomorrow and Saturday.

The union claimed that industrial action was the only option, as BMA may instigate an “un-family friendly” work roster system at its Queensland mines, similar to those in place in Western Australia.

CFMEU spokesperson Steve Smyth told Bloomberg that industrial action is not about money, rather working conditions and entitlements.

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