A WAGES dispute at Beresfield mining machine maker Bucyrus has left about 150 workers locked out of their jobs until Thursday.
Bucyrus, a member of the Caterpillar group of companies, and the Australian Manufacturing Workers Union, appear at loggerheads over the situation at Beresfield.
The company says its ‘‘very competitive’’ wage offer is ‘‘good for employees, customers, shareholders and the community’’.
But union organiser Daniel Wallace said the company had ‘‘rejected outright’’ the main plank of the workers’ proposal for a ‘‘family friendly’’ nine-day fortnight to compensate for a wages structure ‘‘that can’t compete with the mining industry’’.
Bucyrus fitter Clayton Hoger, of Cessnock, said he and his colleagues were working 50 to 60 hours a week to keep up with the company’s need for overtime.
‘‘We’ve got specialised skills but we get nowhere near what they get in the mines,’’ Mr Hoger 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.’’
Mr Wallace said the company’s ‘‘flat refusal’’ of the nine-day fortnight left workers with ‘‘no choice but to take strike action yesterday under the protection of Fair Work Australia’’.
Caterpillar human resources manager Chad Williams said the company had met employee representatives and ‘‘participated in good faith bargaining’’.
‘‘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,’’ Mr Williams said.
‘‘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.
‘‘We would not be taking this lawful response action if the [union] and their members did not take their unlawful action today.’’