The Illawarra Branches of the MUA, CFMEU UMW, CFMEU Building & Construction Division, AWU, AMWU, TWU, RTBU and ETU have come together with the assistance of the South Coast Labour Council (SCLC) to establish the Port Kembla Ports Committee in response to Port Kembla Coal Terminal’s (PKCT) appalling decision to lockout its workforce for five days.
More than 200 people protested at the site of the workers assembly outside of the PKCT yesterday with speakers including Acting SCLC Secretary Garry Keane, CFMEU South-West District Secretary Lee Webb Leigh, MUA Assistant National Secretary Warren Smith and ETU Victorian State Secretary Troy Gray.
Webb told the assembly the company has locked out around 60 workers for the first time in its history amid a three-year battle for a new enterprise agreement in which it is seeking to strip back the workers’ conditions.
“PKCT has also taken the extraordinary step of applying to the Fair Work Commission to terminate the current Enterprise Agreement and go back to the Award safety net conditions. The company is using sneaky, underhand tactics to try to terminate the existing agreement and therefore wind back 25 years of hard fought conditions achieved through enterprise bargaining.
“This is totally unacceptable to workers who have negotiated with the PKCT in good faith over many years based on trade-offs that have provided tangible benefits to the company. The company needs to negotiate in good faith without manipulation or coercion to achieve an agreement that doesn’t strip their employees working conditions.”
Keane said: “This company is crying reduced export tonnage but much of the reduced coal throughput is a direct result of delays caused by the $280 million infrastructure upgrade going on at the Terminal and by the Board’s decision to impose a tonnage levy to fund that infrastructure.’
“PKCT Board is made up of coal mining companies South 32, Glencore, Peabody Energy, Centennial Coal and Wollongong Coal and yet these are the same companies that are now sending their export coal north and avoiding paying that levy.”
Smith highlighted that it has become a disturbing trend by militant employers to stonewall and manipulate enterprise negotiations in a bid to terminate agreements.
“This tactic is becoming increasingly common and unions won’t stand for it. More broadly, the Industrial Relations system is broken for workers. We need to change the rules to ensure that workers can collectively bargain without unfair restraints that only apply to working people and not big corporations,” Smith said.
The Port Kembla Ports Committee condemns the actions of PKCT and pledges our ongoing support for the PKTC CFMEU members in rejecting this attack on their working conditions. We call on the shareholders in PKCT to engage in proper bargaining instead of resorting to lockouts and termination applications.