A mineral producer is deciding whether to exit fossil fuel operations where employees want better remuneration.
South32 recently considered selling its Illawarra Metallurgical Coal entity. The proponent is widely speculated to easily fetch $1 billion for its Appin (76km southwest of Sydney) and Dendrobium (10km west of downtown Wollongong) mines.
If the employer invests further capital the ageing underground operations will still have a limited lifespan according to News Limited. The Appin mine also faced work stoppages until September 1 at the time of publication.
The Collieries’ Staff and Officials Association (CSOA) claims the proponent can afford to improve worker wages, incentives, rosters and leave entitlements. This is because South32 already pays $4.3 million a year to chief executive officer Graham Kerr, and $2M to chief operating officer Noel Pillay.
“Despite workers turning the mine around from a loss-making enterprise into one that has made a US$1.38 billion (A$2.13B) profit this year in just 12 months, South32 continues to refuse to offer a fair pay raise or a production bonus,” CSOA lead organiser Belinda Giblin said in a public statement.
“They expect the workers who made the mine a success to be content with a pay rise that – after inflation – essentially amounts to a pay cut. This is completely unfair and has also been unacceptable to workers.”
CSOA has requested a mediator from the Fair Work Commission (FWC) too.
“Given that we have been negotiating with South32 for over eight months with little progress, workers have now lodged a bargaining dispute in the FWC and seek their assistance in resolving the dispute,” Giblin said.
“We are hopeful that the assistance of the FWC will help bring this dispute to an end quickly.”
For now the employer will temporarily disable parts of the affected operation for work health and safety reasons.
“Given the critical safety role these supervisors play we have taken the unfortunate but necessary decision to continue to make some parts of Appin mine non-operational during this time. This will unfortunately mean that IMC will have to continue to stand down some members of our workforce during this new period of industrial action, however we are taking steps to limit this number,” a spokesperson told QMEB.
“We met with mining supervisors and their representatives on Wednesday and outlined some further changes to our highly competitive [6.3 per cent] offer in an effort to reach a [new enterprise] agreement … we are disappointed that our offer was not accepted.”