Contributed from Townsville
Glencore is another employer trying to turn its permanent workforce at the Oaky North into contractors.
In its effort to enforce compliance after the failure to force force on a new agreement, replacing the one that had ended in 2015, the owners owners of the coal mine near Rockhampton in Queensland, have locked out the 190 miners 90 days so far this year. Now, the same change has been tried on 45 workers at the wash plant, also at North Oaky and they have rejected it too.
All are members of the CFMEU’s Mining and Energy Division. Local district union Vice-President, Chris Brody said that both workforces at Oaky North were standing strong in the face of extremely hard line industrial tactics by Glencore.
The deal insisted by Glencore would erode rights and conditions around workplace representation, dispute procedures, and severance and retrenchment, it is argued.
The dispute is set to keep on going for some time yet, because the Glencore workforce has no intention of giving in and is prepared to dig in for the long haul.
Management is continuing with its hard-line stance. Its difficulty however, is that the longer this goes, the greater the impact on its bottom line and its reputation. It must eventually calculate how much it is prepared to commit. Glencore is also risking the possibility of the dispute extending to the six other coal mines it owns in the Hunter Valley, where new agreements have not been worked out either.
For their part, workers without a wage coming in are dependent on the contributions made by supporters. So long as this remains sufficient, they can hold out for as long as they need to. In their favour is the rising trend for others to dig into their pockets and make a contribution.
Chris Brody says, “Glencore… have taken court action to try and stop legal pickets, and they are trying to intimidate, control and silence their workers with extreme and ludicrous company policies on what people can wear and say.
“They are incredibly sensitive to any negative publicity so much so that they even took a giant inflatable rat to court.
“But most ominously, their end game seems to be to replace the workforce with contractors – which would be a dire outcome for the local community of Tieri.
“In the wake of very healthy profits from their Australian coal operations this year, you would think Glencore would be sitting down and negotiating in good faith with the workforce.
“All we have seen from Glencore is contempt for the workers who line their shareholders’ pockets.”
Glencore’s revenue from Australian coal operations jumped from US$1.77 billion to US$3.1 billion in the last half year.