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Pay dispute escalates to locking out workers at major coal mine

Boggabri mine workers
Boggabri mine workers

An industry body has questioned an Asia-headquartered proponent’s move to prevent workers from performing their duties at a coal mine due to continuing industrial action over wages.

The Construction Forestry Maritime Mining Energy Union (CFMMEU) recently criticised Idemitsu’s decision to issue a lock out notice for nine days to staff at its Boggabri Coal Mine, 118km northwest of Tamworth.

The notice took effect at 6pm on November 22 and will end on December 2. The union claims this came after an overwhelming majority of workers rejected a “substandard” pay increase promised under a new enterprise agreement. Site management also declined to meet with union representatives to discuss a resolution.

88 per cent rejected

“The 88 per cent no vote sends Idemitsu a clear message about workers’ views,” CFMEU Northern Mining and NSW Energy District President Peter Jordan said in a public statement. “The company’s heavy-handed response with the lock out has only strengthened workers’ resolve to achieve the fair pay and conditions they deserve. They have the union’s full support.”

Negotiations have continued for at least two months to try to secure the same pay and conditions other workers enjoy at Idemitsu’s other operations.

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$40K difference in pay

Boggabri mine workers are allegedly being paid between $30,000 and $40,000 a year less than those who work for the Muswellbrook Coal Mine in New South Wales’ Hunter Valley and Ensham Coal Mine in Central Queensland. They are also subject to what they call “unfair” bonus structures, a lack of support for skills training and no access to arbitration by the Fair Work Commission.

“Workers at Boggabri are not asking for anything that isn’t already provided to workers at Muswellbrook and Ensham,” Jordan said. “Boggabri produces top quality coal and there’s no reason why these workers should be treated differently, with worse pay and conditions, just because they are in the Gunnedah Basin.”

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