Hunter mining machinery workers locked out

Around 150 workers from the Bucyrus mining machinery plant in Beresfield have been locked out of the factory following a breakdown in pay negotiations.

The two groups were working out a new enterprise agreement when negotiations stuck over pay and working hours, the Newcastle Herald reports.

Following the breakdown in talks the workers immediately went on strike, which has resulted in the factory barring workers entry until at least Thursday.

According to Australian Manufacturing Workers' Union representative Daniel Wallace Bucyrus, which is now owned by Caterpillar, had completely rejected the thrust of the workers' proposed EA, which focused on a "family-friendly" nine day fortnight to balance out the wages, which "can't compete with the mining industry".

However Bucyrus hit out at the action by the workers and AMWU, saying that it had carried out "good faith bargaining"."We are disappointed the union and its members have elected to take this step, as it is not in the best interests of our employees or customers,’’ Caterpillar human resources manager Chad Williams told the Newcastle Herald.

"Indeed, today’s stop work action is unlawful in our view because the required notification requirements in the Fair Work Act were not complied with.

"Further, we told the [union] and their members last Friday that should they take the unlawful action today, we would be forced to lock out the workforce on Tuesday and Wednesday by way of lawful response action."

One of the workers said the nine day fortnight was a fair demand as currently employees are working 50 to 60 hour weeks to keep up with the manufacturer's volumes.

"We’ve got specialised skills but we get nowhere near what they get in the mines," the worker said.

"We put the nine-day fortnight idea to them and showed them it wouldn’t cost them any money but it’s their way or the highway."

The company countered this by stating it offered a "very competitive proposal", which still remains available.

This is just the latest strike action to rock the mining industry, following on from the continuing coal strikes at BMA, and recent strikes at the nearby Downer EDI's Hunter Valley coal train maintenance facilities on Kooragang Island over similarly protracted negotiations.

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Video: The Newcastle Herald.

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