'Multi-nationals ruining Tieri' mine worker fears

They were workers but now they're protesting outside Glencore's Oaky North mine.
They were workers but now they're protesting outside Glencore's Oaky North mine. Campbell Gellie

IN A makeshift camp, seemingly in the middle of nowhere in central Queensland, about 40 men play cards, sleep, and watch Quentin Tarantino films until their shift is over and they're replaced by another group of men.

While it sounds like a holiday, these union members believe they are fighting for their jobs at Glencore's Oaky North Mine. The men are part of a long battle against Glencore to settle on a new enterprise agreement after the previous contract expired in 2015.


Protesting mine workers pass the time outside Glencore's Oaky North Mine.
Protesting mine workers pass the time outside Glencore's Oaky North Mine. Campbell Gellie

Glencore has said it is trying to create modern, flexible and streamlined EAs that reflect the realities of today's work environment, while workers believe the company is trying to use the new EA to get rid of them in favour of cheaper contract labour.

The Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union, the union the men wear proudly on their shirts, has said the company is trying to do this by not allowing them to be represented by union members to resolve disputes at the mine.

Glencore has continuously denied this and said that under Australian law they are allowed representation and would not lose it under the proposed EA.

On May 8, after negotiations hit a stalemate, workers began to strike until on June 9 the company locked them out of the mine, claiming the protests had cost the company 6400 man hours.

That's when the workers set up a picket line at the turn-off to the site, just 20km out of Tieri.


Jennifer and Sid Hurst have lived in Tieri for 15 years.
Jennifer and Sid Hurst have lived in Tieri for 15 years. Campbell Gellie

A worker at another mine in the Bowen Basin, Sid Hurst, moved with his wife Jennifer to Tieri 15 years ago and believes what the multi-national mining companies are doing to the region is killing the town.

"Good on them for protesting, they're just trying to save their jobs," Mr Hurst said.

"As long as multi-nationals are getting production they don't give a damn, even if it is bad for the community."

He also believes Glencore is trying to get rid of permanent workers for contractors.

"They don't want permanent because then they haven't got to pay big dollars while contractors are cheaper," the 68-year-old said.

"It is killing this town."

He said when he moved to Tieri it was known as the richest town in Queensland and you would have to fight to get to the bar at the pub, no matter what day of the week it was.

On Wednesday there was just a handful of people at the Tieri Hotel Motel and only one car outside the Glencore sponsored Tieri Golf Club.

"We used to have soccer teams, indoor cricket, rugby and now we're struggling to get a footy team together," he said.

"There are a whole lot of workers in those mines but the companies don't want them to live in this town."


A message for workers who haven't been locked out of Glencore's Oaky North Mine.
A message for workers who haven't been locked out of Glencore's Oaky North Mine. Campbell Gellie

Meanwhile, up the road at the picket line, the workers sat as some motorists tooted their horns as they passed.

Despite saying they wanted to talk, they refused, saying it was a sackable offence under the previous agreement, which they are still bound to.

But this is not the only battle Glencore is facing as the CFMEU has created spot-fires in New South Wales' Hunter Valley as well.

And while the workers may be gagged it hasn't stopped Glencore head of global coal assets Peter Freyberg from labelling the union protests as "disgraceful".

"What we have seen in the last few weeks is a union bereft of vision, a union returning to 1970s tactics, a union that believes that conflict is a way to create and enrich employment," he said at the Australian British Chamber of Commerce in Sydney last week.

"From 2011 to 2016 there was a continuous reduction in the global coal price but during this time Glencore never pursued a reduction in wages for our employees.

"But seemingly this isn't about wages and conditions at the work site. What our employees are being asked to strike for is a 'national campaign'."

He said the union was trying to tell Glencore when and where the company could employ contractors, control rosters and how the company could interact with employees.

Back in Tieri, Mrs Hurst was proud to say both of her children were diesel fitters who had secured work in the mines, one of them as a contractor.

Topics:  bowen basin cfmeu coal mine construction ea enterprise agreement forestry glencore mining mining and energy union oaky north mine picket line tieri

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