Pay nearly halved for Griffin coal miners

A decision supported by the Fair Work Commission to slash Griffin Coal’s Collie miners pay by 43 per cent has been slammed by unions.

The Australian Manufacturing Workers’ Union (AMWU) has condemned the 9 June decision to terminate the current enterprise agreement between Griffin Coal and 70 maintenance workers at the Collie mine ahead of the agreement’s expiry next month.

“After 12 months of protracted negotiations, over which time Griffin has continually tried to cut pay and strip back the working conditions and entitlements fairly negotiated by workers over many years, the FWC has ruled that, in the ‘public interest’, the agreement should be terminated as of 10 July,” the AMWU said.

There were reportedly 24 bargaining agreement meetings between unions and the miner between March 2015 and February 2016, and 15 conferences facilitated by the FWC between the two to reach an agreement, however the parties failed to reach a mutual agreement.

According to the Fair Work Commission documents, “At the end of those bargaining meetings, the AMWU stated to the Commission that it is unable to agree or disagree that Griffin Coal has “communicated to employee bargaining representative the financial and economic imperatives for change in order to achieve a sustainable business.”

“Further, the AMWU is unable to agree or disagree that the range of provisions in the Maintenance Agreement which Griffin Coal regards as key provisions, includes: rates of pay, rosters, use of contractors, manning levels, superannuation and fares and allowances.”

 Following this, FWC commissioner Daniel Cloghan said, “In view of the significant amount of evidence, I find the AMWU’s response of neither agreeing nor disagreeing to the above statements not one of doubt, but denial. The evidence is plain on these issues.”

“The simple fact is that, after over 12 months of bargaining prior to the hearing, the parties are unable to reach agreement on a replacement agreement.”

Workers will now revert back to the existing Black Coal Mining Industry Award (2010), which will result in a 43 per cent pay cut and loss of entitlements and conditions.

It is understood the average maintenance worker earns around $127,000 annually, and under the new award pay will drop to $72,000.

It comes after Griffin’s parent company, India’s Lanco Infratech, complained over high operating costs, according to The West.

FWC documents state the miner has been losing, on average, $48.9 million annually from 2011 to 2016, adding “Griffin loses money on every tonne of coal produced and sold” due to its existing long-term contracts”, which equates to the costs of producing one tonne of coal (excluding royalties) 52 per cent higher than the revenue it receives from its domestic supply contracts.

It went on to state Griffin’s largest operating cost is labour, with total wages and salaries in 2015 accounting for 43 per cent of its operating costs.

AMWU state secretary Steve McCartney described the decision as “an outrageous attack on the workers” and a “kick in the guts” to the local community.

“How can the FWC describe this decision as being in the ‘public interest’, when it’s workers, their families, and the whole Collie community who will suffer as a result of this company’s poor business practices,” McCartney said in an AMWU statement.

“Here we have a foreign-owned, multi-national company who have run this operation into the ground, and now thanks to the FWC Griffin are able to walk away from their responsibility to their workforce and the town.”

This is not the first time Griffin has faced issues over paying its workers.

In 2014 operations halted at the site over unpaid bills, with 260 workers suspended after Griffin failed to pay $30 million in debt to its contractor Carna Civil and Mining.