By Sophie Moore
February 12, 2018 - Western Australia's longest-running coal industry pay dispute has come to an end with the Fair Work Commission deciding employees can return to their jobs on Wednesday.
The decision came after 29 members of the Australian Manufacturing Worker's Union agreed in a vote on Friday to accept a new enterprise agreement with Griffin Coal.
Maintenance workers from the Griffin Coal mine in Collie had gathered in front of the Fair Work Commission in Perth on Monday, anxiously waiting for the hearing to decide if they would be returning to work after a protracted 180-day industrial campaign.
AMWU State Secretary Steve McCartney said its members were not happy about the pay rate in the deal but were "prepared to cop it" in exchange for family-friendly rosters and entitlements.
He said the agreement was a victory for workers but was highly critical of the Fair Work Commission, blaming the industrial umpire for the protracted dispute as he called for extensive reform.
"I think Fair Work Australia is a trainwreck ... and the form it is in now takes democracy away from workers, takes outcomes away from the workers and puts it in bosses' hands," Mr McCartney said.
The commission previously approved Griffin Coal's request to terminate the maintenance workers' enterprise agreement and revert 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 the strike and the year on award wages had cost him about $80,000.
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.
A Griffin Coal representative said the company appreciated the assistance of maintenance workers, the Fair Work Commission and the AMWU in finalising a new enterprise agreement.
"This is another step in ensuring the sustainability of the mine in order to take the business forward," he said.
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