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New contractor fails to end industrial action over worker pay at major coal mine

Boggabri Coal Mine workers
Boggabri Coal Mine workers

Two years after a new contracting company took over at a Central New South Wales coal mine employees are still worried about their future.

About 350 workers recently walked off the job for 48 hours at Idemitsu’s Boggabri Coal Mine, 118km northwest of Tamworth. They joined a mass meeting in Gunnedah to demand the same pay and conditions other Idemitsu operations enjoy in other regions.

The strike came nearly 15 months after the Japan-headquartered proponent replaced contractor Downer Australia with BGC Contracting, drawing harsh criticism when workers discovered their work conditions had become less attractive.

Paid $40K less

As it stands Boggabri workers are being paid $40,000 a year less than Idemitsu’s other coal mines at Muswellbrook in the Hunter Valley and Central Queensland’s Ensham. Workers at those other mines also enjoy their previously held work entitlements.

No explanation has been provided about the pay gap according to the Construction, Forestry, Maritime, Mining and Energy Union (CFMMEU).

“Workers are seeking to restore pay and conditions in their new enterprise agreement but the current offer from Idemitsu falls far short,” CFMMEU northern mining and NSW energy district president Peter Jordan said in a public statement.

Entitlements half at the rate

CFMMEU is also concerned about Idemitsu’s current enterprise agreement terms including:

  • redundancy entitlements worth just half of those at Muswellbrook Coal
  • lack of access to arbitration to resolve disputes
  • no commitment to training and skills development.

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More industrial action

“There is no reason that workers in the Gunnedah Basin should be worth less than workers at Idemitsu’s other coal mines,” Jordan said. “They produce high quality, profitable export coal.”

If the proponent does not negotiate, the workers will continue to hold rolling stoppages, and potentially a further 48-hour stoppage.

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