Union blasts Fair Work umpire as miners accept huge pay cuts
Summary: WORKERS at a WA coal mine are keen to get back on the job, with the State’s longest-running coal industry pay dispute looking set to end this week.....
The Australian Manufacturing Worker’s Union blamed the Fair Work Commission for the protracted dispute and called for extensive reform to the industrial umpire.
The workers have been on strike for six months.
About 30 Australian Manufacturing Workers’ Union members from the Griffin Coal mine in Collie gathered in front of the Fair Work Commission in Perth on Monday, anxiously waiting for a hearing which would decide when they can return to work.
AMWU members agreed in a vote on Friday to accept a new enterprise agreement with Griffin Coal.
AMWU State Secretary Steve McCartney said its members were not happy about the pay rate but were “prepared to cop it” in exchange for family-friendly rosters and entitlements.
Mr McCartney said members fought for six months to win back their family friendly rosters, a liveable wage and their entitlements at the rate they were accrued.
“Despite the the pressures of foreign banks, a massive 46 per cent pay cut, million-dollar international consultants and the broken Fair Work Commission, the workers and the broader Collie community have stood together and won,” he said.
“They won it back by endeavour and strength. They knew it would be costly. Nothing can replace what was lost.”
He said the agreement was a victory for workers but was highly critical of the Fair Work Commission and the dispute process.
“I think Fair Work Australia is a train wreck ... and the form it is in now takes democracy away from workers, takes outcomes away from the workers and puts it in bosses hands,” he said.
The commission previously approved Griffin Coal’s request to terminate maintenance workers’ enterprise agreement and revert back to the 2010 Black Coal Mining Industry Award, resulting in a massive 43 per cent pay cut and the loss of entitlements and conditions.
Workers existed on award wages for 12 months — which the union claimed paid around $24 an hour — after the coal mining giant fell on hard times and declared it was only surviving with the financial support of its parent entity, India’s Lanco Infratech.
Lanco Infratech went into receivership in May.
Jay Scoffern, who has worked for Griffin for more than 11 years, said he had never seen such a protracted fight.
Mr Scoffern said the strike and year on award wages had cost him about $80,000 in cash.
However, he said it was less important than winning the right to family-friendly rosters.
“When you live in a town and you’ve got family and sport and other commitments you don’t want to be at work two-thirds of the time, you want to be at work 50 per cent of the time,” he said.
The Fair Work Commission is expected to hand down its decision early this week.
Griffin Coal have been contacted for comment.