South32 coal mine workers vote to take industrial action

Workers at South32’s Dendrobium mine have voted to take industrial action as the dispute continues over expired enterprise agreements.

The agreements expired in April 2014 when BHP Billiton still owned the mine, which is managed by subsidary Illawarra Coal.

South32 now owns Illawarra Coal and the Dendrobium, Appin and West Cliff coal mines after the BHP demerger in May.

Negotiations on a new workplace agreement have so far failed, and it is understood workers want clauses in relation to job security in order to protect themselves against the introduction of casual staff.

On Friday more than 90 per cent of the workforce voted in favour of taking industrial action which could range from limitations on production through to strikes.

Workers would have to provide South32 with 72 hours’ notice prior to any action being taken.

CFMEU district vice president Bob Timbs said workers hoped to have the issue resolved quickly.

"We hope we can get to a stage where we can avoid industrial action," Timbs said.

The company and the CFMEU will renew discussions about the EA tomorrow.

South32 told Australian Mining the company was disappointed at the outcome of the ballot.

Troy McDonald, Illawarra Coal Asset President, said the company had been working with employees and their representatives to develop a new agreement since late 2013.

“We are disappointed in the ballot outcome given that since we started negotiating we have put a number of proposals to employees to address their concerns,” McDonald said.

“In addition, we have commenced the payment of a wage increase as a sign of good faith to our employees while discussions continue.

“The mining industry, like many other industries in the Illawarra region, is facing a difficult business environment. Disruptive industrial action by the CFMEU would create further uncertainty for the company, its employees and the broader community.”

McDonald said Illawarra Coal remains committed to working with the Dendrobium employees and their representatives to achieve a speedy resolution.

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