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

Lock-out fuels fears of workforce 'casualisation'

GLENCORE employees at the Oaky North Mine were notified this week of a further seven-day lock-out - bringing the total to more than 100 days - as the union expressed fears of workforce "casualisation” and doubts over the ability of a ballot next week to end the long-running dispute.

The controversial lock-out of 190 men at the underground mine, 20km from Tieri, was Glencore's response to an initial strike by the employees in May in disagreement over details of a new Enterprise Agreement.

Chris Brodsky, Queensland District vice-president of the Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union Mining and Energy Division, said he was frustrated as Glencore had said they decided to take lock-out action because the strike had cost them 6400 man hours.

"Now, after 106 days, the company has cost itself 228,000 man hours in loss of production and they blame the union for that,” Mr Brodsky said.

"They choose to lock us out, and they choose not to have us in there, and they choose to lose 228,000 man hours because we won't agree to their agreement.”

Mr Brodsky said a ballot next Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday was for a proposed new EA - which included a 2% pay rise - but "which is less in conditions and entitlements than the first one”.

Fresh talks at the end of last month had been described by the union as "constructive”.

However Mr Brodsky said this week he believed Glencore's actions were "deliberate, harsh and hurting families because we will not accept their modern, flexible streamlined agreement”.

"Our greatest fear is that Glencore just want to continue on the path of casualising their entire business,” Mr Brodsky said.

The central Queensland mine employees are currently receiving weekly or fortnightly emails about their ongoing unpaid, lock-out status

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, and that the dispute has become about casualising the workforce and protecting the rights of contractors.

"The families are going okay, but for anyone who is locked out for 100 days or more, it's going to have an effect on home budgets, relationships.

"We are taking up the fight for our own employment, but if we get casualisation for our industry, it will follow on for other industries.

"And once you're a casual, no bank is going to tell you that you can have a loan because they've got no security of employment or no security in you.

"The great Australian dream of owning a house or being able to purchase a car just won't exist.

"And there's a flow-on effect,” he said.

"What does that do to home relationships, divorce rates, kids with single parents?”

Mr Brodsky said that once next week's non-compulsory ballot was complete, representatives from the union and Glencore would meet again.

"We're trying to secure our futures, secure the future of the community and the wider community, and secure the company's futures,” he said.

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.

The two sides have been attempting to settle a new EA after the previous contract expired in 2015.

Initial negotiations soured, and on May 10 workers began to strike until Glencore decided to lock them out in early June.

Contractors are now being employed at the site.

A spokesperson for Glencore said this week that the CFMEU was running a campaign on a national agenda, rather than site-specific issues related to bargaining for an EA for the benefit of Oaky North employees.

"Our latest offer provides Oaky North employees, currently earning an average of $180,000 including superannuation, with a cumulative increase of 8.24% over the four-year life of the agreement.

"This equates to an additional $30,000 for a rostered production employee.”

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