Published: 30 Jan 2017
Our Union is backing a determined fightback by severely exploited labour hire contract coal mineworkers in our NSW South West District. With the backing of their families, the labour hire mineworkers have already demonstrated their resolve with two major public protests involving over 1,000 supporters taking part in the town of Appin and the city of Wollongong.
The workers revolt is spread across three labour hire firms contracted at the Appin colliery – Mastermyne, Delta and SCM (Southern Colliery Maintenance). South 32 is the operating company. It is a spin-off from BHP’s coal operations in the District and has developed a ruthless reputation for driving down costs at the expense of vulnerable contract workers that has resulted in cuts of up to 40% in the past two years for labour hire mineworkers.
Our Union’s South West District Vice-President Bob Timbs said that labour hire workers employed by Delta and SCM at Appin are now into their third-week out the gate in a protected action dispute. Mastermyne terminated its contract with labour hire workers at Appin and our Union is now fighting a series of unfair dismissal cases there while the company is failing to recruit a replacement workforce.
“These workers have just about been squeezed dry and they’ve had enough. Many of these workers are long term employees who despite up to 9-years service are still treated as casual workers with much less pay and far less rights than permanent employees.
“South 32 exploit this by forcing competing labour hire firms to cut costs to the bone to get a contract. In turn, they then screw the workers so tightly that there is little or nothing left to give”.
“Our Union fights for the rights of all our members whether they are permanent or contract employees. We will continue to support the labour hire workers revolt. They are entitled to equal pay for equal work and they are entitled to the same rights and conditions as other workers. We don’t hold with notion of second class workers in our Union”.
Bob Timbs said that the industrial action involved around 140 workers who want to reverse the savage wage cuts inflicted on them and the right to move from casual to permanent employment after 12-months service.
“There has been some movement forward in negotiations since the contractors revolted. However, improved offers fall well short of recovering what they have lost and the issue of job security by moving from casual to permanent employment rights still has to be locked in”.
Bob Timbs said the need for job security is well illustrated by Mastermyne’s actions at Appin. “Our Union is fighting over a dozen unfair dismissal cases involving Mastermyne workers at Appin. The company terminated contracts with its casual employees and since then has failed to recruit enough workers to replace them. It is to the great credit of the workers who revolted against their shocking exploitation that they remain strong, determined and united.
“As long as any workers are prepared to fight and stand up for their rights they will have the full support of our Union and we believe the broader community who believe in the right to a Fair Go”, said Bob Timbs.
Bob Timbs pointed out that the contract workers Revolt comes as coal prices have surged by more than 200% to their highest levels in years resulting in windfall gains for operators like South 32.