Port Kembla Coal Terminal (PKCT) in New South Wales has locked out 60 workers due to an ongoing industrial dispute.
The Construction Forestry Mining and Energy Union (CFMEU) took protected industrial action at the coal terminal site on Sunday in opposition to a plan to ditch the current enterprise agreement.
PKCT, which is owned by South32, Glencore, Peabody Energy, Centennial Coal and Wollongong Coal, responded by shutting out the 60 employees for five days.
One of east coast Australia’s key coal export terminals, PKCT serves the Southern and Western coalfields of NSW, exporting both metallurgical and thermal coal to international markets.
The CFMEU condemned the move to lock out the 60 workers, which it said effectively suspended them without pay.
“This is an outrageous move by PKCT to instigate a lockout which can only serve to worsen a dispute over an enterprise agreement,” South-West Vice President of CFMEU Mining and Energy, Bob Timbs said.
“Our members have been trying to negotiate a new enterprise agreement with PKCT and instead of continuing those talks in good faith, the company has decided to lock the workforce out for five days.”
The Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU), meanwhile, described the Port Kembla decision to lock out the CFMEU members as another example of the attacks employers could unleash on working people thanks to a broken industrial relations system.
ACTU president Ged Kearney said employers had been given too much power and have too many ways of punishing working people.
“We need to change the rules so that working people have the power to negotiate for better wages and conditions, and cannot be bullied into giving them up,” Kearney said.
“The workers at Port Kembla have the full support of the entire union movement, we have seen this kind of behaviour by employers proliferating across the country and we will stand with every workforce which is attacked.”
Timbs said the CFMEU was ready to sit down with PKCT and its shareholders to find a way forward without the need to resort to tactics that would create further disruption.
“We know the coal companies are behind this move and we are calling on all those involved to step back and reflect on how to resolve this dispute rather than make matters worse,” Timbs said.
“PKCT has also taken the extraordinary step of applying to the Fair Work Commission to terminate the current enterprise agreement and go back to the award. This is unacceptable to workers who have accepted wage increases over several years based on tradeoffs that have provided tangible benefits to the company.”