Glencore's Hunter coal mines hit by 48 hour strikes

DOWN TOOLS: Glencore's Bulga open-cut, one of the mines at which CFMEU members are taking protected strike action during enterprise bargaining negotiations.
DOWN TOOLS: Glencore's Bulga open-cut, one of the mines at which CFMEU members are taking protected strike action during enterprise bargaining negotiations.

ABOUT 1400 Glencore mineworkers have voted for two 48-hour strikes that will hit most of the company’s Hunter Valley operations.

In some of the biggest industrial action on the coalfields for some time, the Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union has endorsed a program of industrial action that includes a 48-hour stoppage on Thursday and Friday affecting five sites, with another 48 hours on Tuesday and Wednesday affecting seven sites.

Some Glencore mines have already begun rolling two-hour stoppages.

CFMEU district president Peter Jordan said this week’s 48-hour strike would affect the Bulga open-cut, Glendell, Liddell and Mangoola mines, and the Ravensworth coal preparation plant. 

 Next week’s stoppage would expand to include the Ravensworth mine and the Liddell coal-handling plant.

Glencore said it was “disappointed” with the industrial action but Mr Jordan said the company’s “belligerent attitude to bargaining” meant union members were eventually left with little option but to strike.

“There are a series of enterprise agreements being negotiated here that expired back as far as 2012 and 2014, meaning members have had no increases since then,” Mr Jordan said.

He said as a “sign of good faith” the union had postponed the second 48-hour strike to next week to allow a full week of bargaining but “negotiations took place last week with no progress”.

Glencore said it had offered pay rises but Mr Jordan said job security not money was the main issue.

Mr Jordan said Glencore was clearly moving to casualise its workforce where possible, and had reopened the old Glennies Creek or Integra underground mine earlier this year with “a fully casual contract workforce” of about 80.

He said Bulga and Ravensworth mines each had an estimated 200 contractors, making up half of each mine’s workforce.

“Our people want certainty that this not going to happen to their jobs,” Mr Jordan said.

He said the other major issue related to the way Glencore calculated redundancy payments.  The union wanted Glencore to match most other employers in the region by calculating redundancy payments using the averaged rostered hours of employees rather than the base 35-hour week that it used.

In a statement to the Newcastle Herald, Glencore said it was negotiating new agreements with employees at its Mangoola, Liddell, Glendell, Ravensworth and Bulga open-cut mining operations in the Hunter Valley.

“We are confident that agreements that continue to provide favourable working conditions for our people will be approved at each site,” Glencore said.

“We recognise that the Fair Work Act provides employees with the option of taking lawful industrial action during these negotiations.

“Glencore is disappointed this action is being taken despite the offers of wage increases made at each of the sites.”

“Operations at all sites will continue during the industrial action. We do not anticipate any significant impact on customers, suppliers or business partners as a result of the action being taken.”

Mr Jordan said Glencore was offering no more than 2 per cent per annum over three years, when workers at some mines had gone without pay increases during the years since their agreements had elapsed.

Mr Jordan said that about 1400 union members would take part in the strike action.

A mass meeting of striking Glencore workers would be held in Singleton on Wednesday.

Mr Jordan said the strike affected most of the company’s Hunter operations. He said there was also a chance of similar industrial action at Glencore’s Ulan mine near Mudgee.

In Queensland, Glencore’s Oakey Creek mine has been the site of protracted industrial action, with the ACTU describing Glencore’s proposals for the mine as “an attack on mineworkers”.