Coal digger at Collie, Australia (photo credit: Wikimedia Commons)

Coal digger at Collie, Australia (photo credit: Wikimedia Commons)

Drawn-out dispute at Australian mine


Indian-owned Griffin Coal is involved in a two-year long dispute with IndustriALL Australian affiliate AMWU at the Collie coal mine in Perth. The maintenance workforce has been on strike for 20 weeks, in response to Griffin Coal’s complete opposition to negotiate an agreement.

The Collie Mine is in financial crisis and lenders to the company have started the process of recovering their loans. During this process, the company is refusing to agree to the proposal made by Australia’s industrial tribunal, the Fair Work Commission (FWC), towards protecting workers’ interests.

Instead, Griffin Coal is using every anti-worker provision available to reduce the terms and conditions for these workers. Wage rates have been dropped by more than 43 per cent; the value of accrued legal entitlements like annual leave and long service leave have been slashed in half; and workers are forced onto anti-family shifts, working more hours for less pay.

The conflict is also having an impact on the local economy, where businesses have been affected by the drop in take-home income.

The AMWU says:

We have tried to assist with Griffin Coal’s focus on flexibility. At every turn, Griffin Coal has told us that this offer is not good enough – that they want us to cut wages even lower, and take on more hours. At the heart of the issue is the fact that the production employees will receive around AUS$6,000 more per year than maintenance employees who work the same shift.

We are seeking at a minimum parity between the production and maintenance workers. However, Griffin Coal do not agree to the issue of parity between the workforce and continue to pit worker against worker.

The Fair Work Commission is recommending that the negotiations for a new agreement be resolved on the basis of a package agreed to in principle in November 2017, underlining that maintenance workers should have the same conditions as the production workers.

IndustriALL general secretary Valter Sanches is concerned over Griffin Coal’s continued disregard for the exploitation of its workforce:

Griffin Coal must accept the recommendation of the Fair Work Commission, and immediately return to the negotiation table.

Griffin Coal currently employs approximately 270 blue-collar workers at its Collie operations: production workers and maintenance workers. The production workers are represented by the CFMEU, and the AMWU represents the maintenance workers. The two groups of employees are covered by separate enterprise agreements.