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200 days: Glencore lockout continues at Oaky North in Australia

27 January, 2018Glencore has locked workers out of the Oaky North mine in Queensland, Australia for 200 days in an ongoing industrial dispute.

In what is believed to be the longest lockout in Australian industrial history, members of IndustriALL Global Union affiliate the Construction, Forestry, Mining and Electrical Union (CFMEU) entered day 200 of their lockout today.

The six and a half month lockout continues after workers rejected the company’s Enterprise Bargaining Agreement (EBA) by 164 votes to 11 on 24 January. The EBA, which was mediated by government arbitrator Fair Work Australia, is the third offer from the company that the workers have rejected.

Workers at Oaky North rejected the EBA because Glencore is increasing the use of casual workers and undermining union representation. The union believes that Glencore plans to replace the workers with contractors and then wind down and shut the mine, reducing their liability for redundancy payments.

“The very clear message from our rank and file members is that this agreement favours the company over the worker,” CFMEU Mining and Energy Queensland division president Stephen Smyth said.

“For our members, this has never been about money. At the beginning of this dispute, they proposed a continuation of their previous agreement without any wage increases – which was rejected by Glencore.

“This has always been about drawing a line in the sand on hard fought for conditions - conditions that were traded through previous enterprise agreements.

“It is disappointing that this bitter and protracted dispute will continue.”

Glencore is using contractors to maintain production, while the workers receive a solidarity wage from their union. Many other union branches have donated money to support the locked-out workers. Workers have said they are prepared to spend another six months on the picket line.

The workers were locked out on the same day that the Paradise Papers were released, revealing that Glencore had paid almost no tax or royalties in Australia for a number of years.

IndustriALL assistant general secretary Kemal Özkan said:

“The workers at Oaky North have showed tremendous courage and resilience by standing firm against Glencore’s bullying for 200 days. They will not back down. IndustriALL will continue to support them, and continue to campaign until Glencore treats its workforce with respect.”