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Agreements End Glencore Hunter Valley Coal Industrial Dispute

 

 

By Mike Cooper


December 4, 2017 - Glencore has settled a long-running industrial dispute at six of its Hunter Valley coal mines and three coal processing plants in New South Wales, Australia by addressing union-raised issues in new enterprise agreements for each mine site, union and company said sources Monday. 


The new enterprise agreements cover all Glencore's Hunter Valley coal operations including Bulga underground mine and the open cut mines of Bulga, Glendell, Liddell, Mangoola and Ravensworth, plus the Mount Owen, Liddell, and Ravensworth coal handling and preparation plants, said a Glencore spokesman.


"Each of Glencore's coal sites in the Hunter Valley has now reached agreement with its workforce in relation to a new Enterprise Agreement," said Glencore's Australia-based spokesman.


"These agreements are in the process of being registered with the Fair Work Commission," said Peter Jordan, president of the Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union's New South Wales northern mining district who was closely involved in the negotiations.


The enterprise agreements will last for three years from the date of their certification by the Fair Work Commission, the Australian government's employment relations agency, a process expected to take about two weeks, said the union leader.


Jordan said the union was "happy" with the settlement with Glencore, which he said was a sensible outcome for both parties, and "now allows us to get on and rebuild these mines."


The union's settlement with Glencore formally brings to an end an industrial dispute that erupted into strikes in early June, and has included 24 weeks of rolling work stoppages by 1,435 workers belonging to the CFMEU.


"In the Hunter Valley all eight [mines and processing plants] will no longer have any industrial action," said Jordan. 


Strikes at Glencore's Hunter Valley coal operations had ceased for the past month after the union's delegates accepted the company's proposed collective enterprise agreements on an in-principle basis, he added. This happened at a special meeting on October 20 at which around 40 union delegates representing union members from eight Glencore Hunter Valley mine sites unanimously approved the content of the enterprise agreements on an in-principle basis, he said. 


The agreements were put to a vote of unionized employees in secret ballots at individual mine sites in November, and received approval rates ranging from 68% to 90% in favor, or an average affirmative vote of 79%, said Jordan.


"It took two to three weeks to get all eight [agreements] concluded," said Jordan.


"The eighth [agreement] was concluded by a formal vote last Thursday," he said. 


Discussing the content of the approved enterprise agreements for the Glencore Hunter Valley minesites, Jordan said they addressed the three issues at the heart of the union's campaign of industrial action.


"At these eight [operations] we were pursuing security of employment, improved retrenchment pay, and an understanding on casual positions and permanent positions," he said.


Jordan said the union and Glencore had reached an in-principle agreement on a special clause in the enterprise agreements regarding security of employment. "I had to take it back to eight minesites for them to endorse it," he said. The security of employment clause means that in the event of Glencore needing to reduce its Hunter Valley workforce it will first look at reductions in casual or contract workers before moving on to voluntary redundancies and redeployments to other mines. 


In addition, the company has agreed to convert a number of contractor posts to permanent posts at Bulga and Ravensworth open cut mines, and to increase the opportunities for workers to undergo training.


Jordan also said the union and the company had reached an agreement on the basis of future redundancy payments to retrenched workers.


This would be based on employees' average rostered hours, instead of a standard 35-hour week as at present.


This could lead to higher redundancy payments as Glencore workers typically work more than 35 hours per week and closer to 45 hours.


Jordan said in his judgment the union's campaign of strikes since June had "heavily" affected production at Glencore's Hunter Valley coal mines as well as drilling and blasting activities to prepare overburden for removal from mine sites. 


Glencore said it now has agreements with workers at 13 of its coal mining sites in New South Wales and Queensland in Australia, although, workers at Glencore's Oaky North underground mine remain locked out, according to Jordan.

 

"Oaky North underground continues to be locked out," he said, but adding he could not comment further as the Queensland mine was outside his jurisdiction.