Griffin Coal dispute continues

Ashwini SaseedaranSouth Western Times
Griffin Coal employees took their month-long protest over wage cuts and leave entitlement rates to the streets of Bunbury last week.
Camera IconGriffin Coal employees took their month-long protest over wage cuts and leave entitlement rates to the streets of Bunbury last week. Credit: Ashwini Saseedaran / South Western Times

Despite Griffin Coal’s attempt to avoid closing its doors by negotiating salaries and rosters, unsatisfied maintenance employees along with Australian Manufacturing Workers’ Union representatives took to the streets of Bunbury last week to continue protests.

Since being taken over Indian owners Lanco Infratech Limited in 2011, the company has faced major financial struggles inevitably causing announcements for labour cost cuts in 2015.

Over a year of negotiations with the union followed resulting in a final agreement which saw the original $139,301 annual salary for a 42-hour week take an 8 per cent pay cut to an annual salary of $128,000 and an extended 49-hour roster.

Deeming the offer an abolition of democracy, workers refused the proposal which adversely led to a Fair Work Commission decision to terminate the original expired enterprise agreement.

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As negotiations now continue for a new enterprise agreement, the pay of employees has dropped to $113,169 for a 46-hour week.

AMWU South West organiser Brant Softley said as well as the wage cut, employees had potentially lost up to $100,000 in accrued entitlements of long service, sick and annual leave.

“The workers have been treated like second-class citizens by their employer,” Mr Softley said.

“We are hoping to achieve stable, full-time employment and protection of wages and conditions for the community of Collie and future generations.”

After 27 years of working at Griffin Coal, third-generation maintenance employee Chadd Mitchell said the past 12 months of working more hours to earn less money was unfair.

“We have had enough now so we have gone out of the gate and we will not be returning to work until such time as Griffin have decided to come to the table to arbitrate,” Mr Mitchell said.

With people already “carefully watching what they spend,” wife of maintenance employee and Griffin Community Protest page administrator Leonie Scoffern said as well as affecting workers and their families, the situation also had the potential of negatively impacting local businesses and the wider community.

“The uncertainty of the future has really affected us,” Mrs Scoffern said.

“We are happy here in Collie and we would rather not leave town to find employment.

We just want a resolution so we can start planning for the future again.”

A Griffin Coal company spokesman said the cyclical peaks and troughs of the mining industry meant that the company needed to adjust to compensate for financial losses.

The spokesman also said the best outcome for Griffin and its employees was sustainable new enterprise agreements to take the business forward and preserve jobs.

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