German Creek powder keg
FULL frontal industrial dispute imminent as striking workers replaced by labour hire
Wednesday 09 November 2016
The Capcoal mining operations near Middlemount seem destined to bear witness to the biggest industrial confrontation in the Central Queensland coalfields in more than a decade.
This week Anglo American met with its workforce to advise them that they had decided to move ahead with a plan to permanently park a full pre-strip circuit on their above ground operations at the cost of 83 full-time jobs.
Legally the company is required to present for negotiation any planned production changes affecting the workforce before they implement them, but it’s just a political gesture because the workforce would never vote to lose its job, and they can’t stop the company moving ahead with their plan anyway.
So after three weeks of “negotiations,” the company will now commence sending employees their redundancy notices - many of whom will come from the ranks of more than 140 unionised workers who have been on strike for more than two months.
Mining union the CFMEU is labelling it as an industrial ambush, and points to several positions “around Middlemount” currently advertised with Labour Hire companies as evidence that they want to get rid of unionised employees.
“Anglo is proposing to make 83 German Creek workers forcibly redundant,’ CFMEU M&E Queensland District Senior Vice-President Mitch Hughes said.
“It seems apparent they are targeting union activists while continuing to advertise for labour hire positions.
“It is shameful that this company is continuing to pick off workers who are standing up for their rights and conditions while advertising to replace them with vulnerable outside labour hire employees in insecure jobs.”
Notably, Anglo has not challenged the claim that they are using Labour Hire to maintain operations at Capcoal, but says it’s workforce is entitled to take protected action, and they are entitled to take whatever steps they can to keep the mine operating.
“The CFMEU allege that Anglo American is recruiting labour to permanently replace employees
who are engaged in protected industrial action.
“Again, this allegation is completely false.
“Anglo American is legally entitled to continue to operate its mine during periods of protected
industrial action and will do so utilising employees, contractors and supplementary labour who
wish to work.
“The CFMEU allege that Anglo American are "targeting union activists", again, this allegation
is completely false.
“Anglo American respects the right of any employee to engage in protected industrial action and otherwise is acting in full compliance with the Fair Work Act and all other relevant laws.”
With neither party giving any sense that they are prepared to negotiate, the long term outlook of a happy resolution looks grim.
One industry veteran told Shift Miner the stand-off at Capcoal was part of bigger objectives for both Anglo and the CFMEU.
So far as the CFMEU goes, he suggested the strike action was actually about the Union choosing this battle as an opportunity to re-assert its relevance in Central Queensland mining after a decade of declining membership and influence.
However, with Anglo American selling off its coal mines - albeit very slowly following the price rally - he speculated that Anglo has no real long term incentive to accept the Union's demands, and further could fetch a better price for its mines if they survive this stand-off.