Axe falls for Anglo miners
83 jobs go but no resolution in sight after FWA rejects CFMEU claim.
Wednesday 30 November 2016
Work may have ended for workers at Anglo American’s Capcoal mining operations near Middlemount, but the industrial dispute at the mine is nowhere near concluding after the Fair Work Commission rejected the CFMEU attempt to have a “Good Faith Bargaining” order issued against Anglo American.
Early this week, Anglo American delivered on their decision to cancel a significant amount of overburden removal at the German Creek above ground mine, and advised 82 employees they no longer had jobs at the mine.
While Anglo argues the decision is simply about responding to the current mining conditions, the CFMEU’s District President Stephen Smythe says it is a naked attack on unionised employees.
“Out of 33 permanent local workers [notified first last Friday], 32 of those are workers who had been on strike,” he said.
“Anglo cannot tell us this isn’t an exercise to pick off workers who only wanted certainty over job security.
“This attack on workers will affect dozens of families and is a clear step towards prioritising casualisation of employment.
“What’s happening at German Creek is a symptom of what’s happening across the mining sector in its worst form, the company delayed the bargaining process for over two years, refused to negotiate fair working conditions, then picks off the workers who were vocal about their rights.
“This latest blow follows Anglo’s refusing requests by workers and families to engage with the community, and hold community meetings to discuss the future of workers at the mine.
However, the FWC has effectively rejected this last claim by the CFMEU.
When negotiating a new EA, bargaining representatives must comply with the good faith bargaining obligations set out in the Fair Work Act, which basically establish the rules of engagement during the negotiations process.
If the FWC finds a company is not bargaining in good faith, it will intervene and arbitrate on any outstanding matters.
In this instance, the FWC found that Anglo was negotiating in good faith.
The CFMEU and Anglo American have been negotiating over a new Enterprise Agreement for the above ground workforce at the Capcoal complex since 2014, and a failure to resolve this has been the genesis of the strike action at the mine which has now entered its fifth month.
Had the CFMEU been successful in arguing that Anglo American was not negotiating in good faith, it would have been a breakthrough in what appears to be a costly deadlock - because the FWC would have intervened and forced a decision.
While the CFMEU says it will appeal the FWC decision, and says the strike action and redundancies are clearly related, a spokesperson for Anglo disputed this last Friday.
“The Company has always maintained the decision to restructure the mine was based on changed business conditions imposed upon it by an unplanned delay in its pre-stripping operations,” she said.
“Last week’s Fair Work Commission decision supports the legitimate rights of the company to implement genuine changes to its operational plans in the face of sustained and ongoing industrial action.
“All employee entitlements will be fully met, and additional support will be provided to those affected.
“It is regrettable when any jobs are lost in our industry, particularly in circumstances such as this which were completely avoidable.”
With a significant number of unionised miners now redundant, and Anglo American continuing to operate the mine using non-striking workers and labour hire, it is not clear how or when this dispute will be resolved.
Normally miners are given a month to vacate company houses when they become redundant, however since this means miners could be without a house over Christmas, Anglo has agreed to relax this rule.All miners impacted have also been given $11,000 to help with relocation expenses.