Strike ends at CapCoal
Four month old industrial dispute ends with losers everywhere.
Wednesday 11 January 2017
Striking miners at the Anglo American Capcoal open cut coal mine near Middlemount have returned to work, ending nearly five months of protected strike action.
While the CFMEU says the fight is far from over, the strike action appears to have been a complete failure.
It was not successful in pressuring Anglo American to soften its position over a new enterprise agreement, and directly resulted in the loss of 82 jobs - 33 of which came from the ranks of striking CFMEU employees.
Because of this, Anglo-American might be privately claiming a small victory, although it has come at a significant cost.
Rather than negotiate a return to work for the striking employees last year, Anglo decided to shut down a full pre-strip circuit and sack the 82 employees required to run it, which cut production significantly - at a time of record spot coal prices.
However publicly, Anglo American says it’s happy that the ordeal is over.
"Anglo welcomes the return to work decision, and looks forward to sitting down and constructively engaging with employee representatives on terms and conditions for a new Enterprise Agreement,” a spokesperson said.
CFMEU district Vice President Glenn Power told Shift Miner that their focus is now about getting CFMEU workers who were sacked, reinstated through the Fair Work Commission (FWC).
“By no means does this indicate the bargaining issue is resolved or finished,” he said.
“The strike is about loss and damage to the company - which is the way the legislation frames it.
“Which it did.
“But the guys voted to return to work last Wednesday after the Federal Court made an interim order that two of our guys who were sacked be reinstated.
“We will now go to the FWC to have the other 31 CFMEU people who lost their jobs returned to work.”
Late last year, the FWC rejected an attempt by the CFMEU to have a bargaining order imposed on Anglo American which would have seen their members returned to their former roles.
The CFMEU argued that when Anglo decided to make 83 employees redundant - a significant number of whom were part of the 140 protected striking employees - it represented a failure to fairly bargain over a new Enterprise Agreement.
The CFMEU have since appealed this decision and are waiting on a decision by a full bench of the Commission.
At the heart of that decision was one of the most notable elements of this whole ordeal. That being that the Fair Work Commission accepted that Anglo American were within their rights to backfill the roles of striking workers with Labour Hire.
A move that Mr Power says makes him wonder whether a reasonable outcome can ever be achieved.
“When they brought in labour hire, they effectively brought in strikebreakers,” he said.
“Of the 82 people earmarked for redundancy, only 47 have so far lost their jobs.
“All of them were directly employed with Anglo, and thirty-three of them were with the CFMEU.
“All but one of the remaining 14 was not with any union - as I understand it.
“Anglo is using some buzzwords about when the other labour hire and contract workers will go, but it seems pretty clear what the objective was.
“The CFMEU is open to making a concession to get the enterprise agreement finalised, but it’s not going to be a concession on job security and steady employment.
“What this has shown is that it's in Anglo’s DNA to not have any respect for workers negotiating over their terms and condition.
“To terminate employees who were within their rights taking protected industrial action was an appalling decision.”