CFMEU fights back against mining giant

13.07.2017

Through widespread industrial action, Australian union CFMEU is pushing back against mining giant Glencore’s increasing use of contract labour and refusal to negotiate fair enterprise agreements at multiple sites across Australia. At rallies around the country earlier this week, union members showed their resolve to fight against Glencore’s attack on working conditions, job security and local communities.

On 11 July, a support rally for workers at Glencore’s Oaky North mine was held in the Central Queensland town of Tieri. The mineworkers have been on strike since May, when negotiations for a fair agreement broke down after two years.

The rally was attended by hundreds of locals, as well as supporters who flew in to show solidarity with the Oaky North workers.

Tony Maher, CFMEU National President, said:

“Glencore wants to impose a whole raft of conditions on these workers that would reduce their pay, provide less security and increase their costs.

“This is just not on. These workers have been fighting this unfair agreement for two months and now it’s time for the rest of the country to join with them in taking a stand.“

Australian Council of Trade Unions Secretary Sally McManus attended the rally, calling the striking workers “an inspiration to the country, leading the fight against our broken industrial system and against corporate greed”.

CFMEU Queensland District President Stephen Smyth expressed the significance of the dispute:

“It’s not just a fight for Tieri but a fight for all workers across the country, where we are all fighting to fix a broken system that is failing to deliver fairness to workers. It’s the fight of our lives, one we will win by acting collectively.”

The proposed workplace agreement for Oaky North put forward by Glencore would:

  • Limit workers’ access to workplace representation
  • Allow them to unilaterally change rosters against the wishes of employees
  • Pay workers based on profit, not hours and work
  • Increase the cost of company’s accommodation for workers
  • Limit the ability of employees to have some matters determined by arbitration

A mass meeting at Singleton in the New South Wales Hunter Valley on 10 July, saw more than 1,000 miners from seven Glencore operations in the area, resolved to continue a co-ordinated campaign of stoppages.

Addressing the crowds, CFMEU Northern District President Peter Jordan, recalled the words of a member who talked about this fight not only being about current members, but about future ones.

“It’s about us standing up and making a principled fight now, not leaving it until later. Let’s take on Glencore and protect local jobs and the local economy.”

The use of contract labour, around 40 per cent according to the CFMEU, and inadequate redundancy and pay increases are central to the resolution of the dispute.

CFMEU National Secretary Michael O’Connor, told the meeting that companies like Glencore have been attacking workers’ rights for decades:

“… slowly chipping away at a system we believed protected us. So what we are seeing is a massive mobilization of workers across the country to restore fairness to the industrial system.”

General Secretary of IndustriALL Global Union, Valter Sanches, condemns Glencore’s behaviour:

“We are appalled at Glencore’s unreasonable approach, devoid of any good-faith intentions in collective bargaining and undermining sound industrial relations. We call on Glencore to return the negotiating table and negotiate in good faith.”