LOCKOUT: The lock-out at Glencore's Oaky North Mine continues.
LOCKOUT: The lock-out at Glencore's Oaky North Mine continues. Contributed

Glencore ballot results expected

RESULTS of a ballot by Glencore for a proposed new Enterprise Agreement (EA) in the long-running dispute between the mining company and employees are expected today, days after a Fair Work Commissioner handed down stern orders against Glencore and its actions toward 190 men who have been locked out at the site for more than 110 days. 

Chris Brodsky, Queensland District Vice-President of the Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union (CFMEU) Mining and Energy Division, said he was expecting a "100% no vote” to be returned in this week's three-day ballot which proposed a new EA - with a 2% pay rise - but "which is less in conditions and entitlements than the first one”. 

Mr Brodsky - who has doubts over the ability of the ballot to end the dispute - said, however, he was "definitely happy” with the outcome of the hearing during the week in which Commissioner Ingrid Asbury ordered that Glencore was to stop surveillance of locked out workers in their private lives and subsequent disciplinary action.

Mr Brodsky said the spying on employees by Glencore had been happening "in town, in Mackay, wherever the blokes were going home” and video cameras and high-powered lenses on digital cameras had been used. 

"They were trying to get the blokes doing something wrong, and then sack them with it.”

Glencore was also ordered to lift the ban on workers wearing union shirts.

"She was critical of us too, in regards to some of the alleged behaviour,” Mr Brodsky said. 

Twenty-one Oaky North workers were criticised for their alleged "appalling” behaviour at the picket line by Commissioner Asbury.

The Commission heard that the workers allegedly shouted "grub”, "f---ing grub” and "maggot” at other workers leaving the mine, including contractors Glencore employed to do their jobs while they were locked out.

Commissioner Asbury found that a series of "allegation letters” that were sent to 21 workers appeared to be an intimidating message from Glencore.

She wrote in her decision that the drafting of the letters had "coincided with results of the ballot for approval of the company's proposed agreement and the overwhelming rejection of that proposal by employees”.

She believed Glencore had been more concerned about security staff gathering video and photographic evidence of the workers' poor conduct than addressing the issue, which she said was shown by how long it took the company to send the "allegation letters”.

A spokesperson for Glencore said this week that the mining company was "disappointed” by the decision of the Fair Work Commission and was reviewing the ruling.

The spokesperson said the company would continue to negotiate a new Enterprise Agreement to "position Oaky North for a successful future”.

A further conciliation date with the Fair Work Commissioner has been set for November 6, if required.

Glencore locked the men out in response to an initial strike by the employees in May in disagreement over details of a new Enterprise Agreement (EA).

Employees were this week given notice of the next unpaid seven-day lock-out. 

Mr Brodsky said, "Financially, it's not normal but they're going OK. We help them out and chip in if they're doing it really tough.

"My view is that 110 days of lock-out, plus continuing to lock us out as fast as an hour after a decision by the Commissioner was made that they lost ... there's not a legal process in this country that stops them from doing that.”

Mr Brodsky said he was confident the alleged behaviour of CFMEU members was "under control”.

"We've set a standard and we don't expect them to outside it. Under the circumstances, they're coping fine. But they'd prefer to be back at work and doing the job they're supposed to be doing.

"The decision didn't make Glencore think that they had been too heavy-handed or that they might pull back here and, most importantly, put the blokes back to work.

"Instead they chose to lock us out again.”

Glencore has said it wants to create modern, flexible and streamlined EAs to reflect modern work environments. 

But workers believe Glencore is attempting to use the new EA to favour cheaper, contract labour. Glencore and the union have continued to disagree over the details of three areas of a new EA: workplace representation, disputes procedure, and severance and retrenchment. 


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