Newcastle: Port Waratah Coal Services Workers To Commence Protected Action On Sunday

Workers at Rio Tinto’s subsidiary Port Waratah Coal Services (PWCS) in Newcastle will take protected action beginning on Sunday 12 May 2013.

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MUA Assistant National Secretary Ian Bray

“When companies like Rio Tinto and PWCS refuse to engage in fair bargaining, those companies will always meet with the determination of workers to ensure a decent life for themselves and their families,” said MUA assistant national secretary Ian Bray.

“We would have preferred to reach agreement without taking these actions, but given Rio Tinto’s anti- worker, anti-union posture, our members are moving forward to exercise their legal rights.”

The actions that will take place, outlined in a letter to the company, which was served on May 7, 2013 (copy of full letter attached at the end of this release), include:

  1. All members of the MUA employed by Port Waratah Coal Services shall engage in an unlimited number of bans on the performance of overtime commencing at 1800 hours on Sunday 12 May 2013 for an indefinite period.

  2. All members of the MUA employed by Port Waratah Coal Services shall engage in an unlimited number of bans on the performance of work outside of an employee’s classification commencing at 1800 hours on Sunday 12 May 2013 for an indefinite period.

  3. All members of the MUA employed by Port Waratah Coal Services, except for Control Room / Communications Operators and Process Operators, shall engage in an unlimited number of bans on the performance of duties associated with the end of shift change over duties commencing at 1800 hours on Sunday 12 May 2013 for an indefinite period.

“Our members are strongly united,” MUA’s Newcastle branch secretary Glen Williams said.

“If it takes one day or one month or longer, we are going to outlast a company that has decided to throw away many years of mutually beneficial relations for the sake of profit.

“This dispute has nothing to do with productivity or flexibility. Our members have shown over many, many years that they have been a willing partner in mutually agreed workplace changes that have benefited both PWCS and its employees.

“PWCS has manufactured this dispute in an effort to achieve total managerial prerogative and replace long-term employees with contractors. The people of Newcastle deserve an explanation as to why PWCS has chosen to bring Rio Tinto's brand of international industrial bastardry to our town at time of high productivity and flexibility that is reflected in the amount of coal that is being exported from the terminals.”

PWCS’ anti-union proposals are seeking to undermine the safety and health of workers, tear up longstanding settlement procedure of contract issues, and radically change the scope of matters that can be arbitrated.

Talks between union members and PWCS have seen more than eight months of negotiations. The single bargaining unit representing workers comprises the Maritime Union of Australia, the Transport Workers Union, the Electrical Trade Union, and the Australian Manufacturing Workers Union.

“PWCS has threatened to replace our members with inexperienced operators who are given a crash course in operating a 300-tonne mobile ship loader,” TWU Newcastle & Northern NSW Sub-Branch secretary Mick Forbes said.

“That will increase the risk of personal injury and potential damage to the ships and loaders. It greatly increases our members fear, it’s not fair, it’s not productive and it’s certainly not as safe.”

“This dispute is entirely being manufactured by the company and we feel sure this is being driven by Rio Tinto,” Australian Manufacturing Workers Union organiser Daniel Wallace said.

“We had a 100 percent yes vote on protected action which I have never seen before which shows the frustration of what is happening with negotiations,” Electrical Trades Union organiser Russell Wilson said.