CFMEU negotiates withdrawal of lockout at Yancoal's Ashton Underground mine

UPDATE: 

After meeting with the manager of Yancoal’s Ashton Underground mine this morning, CFMEU district president, Peter Jordan, says the lockout has been withdrawn.

And, Yancoal’s senior management will meet with union representatives on Monday to continue negotiations in relation to an expired Enterprise Bargaining Agreement.

The company will allow the miners to return to work after the union agreed to withdraw their notice of further industrial action.

However, Mr Jordan says the company has guaranteed no action will be taken against workers “who fail to front up” as they were informed at 6.30am on Saturday morning that they were locked out indefinitely.

He said talks were conducted on Friday but the company remains “dogmatic on the issue of removing the right of arbitration and reducing contractors rate of pay”.

“We are just trying to hang on to what we have got,” Mr Jordan says.

Earlier this week:

CFMEU members employed at Yancoal’s Ashton Underground have set up a picket line at the entrance of the mine in conjunction with a 24-hour stoppage that began at midnight on Sunday.

PICKET LINE: CFMEU members at Ashton Underground taking a stand against Yancoal on Monday.

PICKET LINE: CFMEU members at Ashton Underground taking a stand against Yancoal on Monday.

This follows two stop-work meetings on Friday, and is in response to issues that have arisen in the process of trying to “roll-over” an expired Enterprise Bargaining Agreement.

District President, Peter Jordan, told The Argus last Monday (March 5) that the union had given notice of their intention to take protected industrial action.

He said while they are seeking a slight pay increase, the main area of contention is related to the right of arbitration.

“The company wants to remove the right of arbitration and wind it back to consent only,” he explained.

“They also want to lower the hourly rate paid to contractors which at present is the same as permanent employees, and there are also issues around the redundancy clause.”

He said the agreement expired over two years ago at a time when the industry was in bad shape.

However, now things have picked up all we are asking for is to roll-over the current agreement with a slight pay increase  – and without having these vital conditions taken away.

A spokesperson from Yancaol said negotiations have been conducted in good faith for more than two years in an effort to implement a modern and sustainable enterprise agreement.

“The proposed new agreement will see employees retain their current redundancy entitlements and negotiations related to a proposed wage increase are ongoing,” the spokesperson said.

“Proposed changes to the matter of arbitration are in accordance with modern workplace agreements already established at mines across the Hunter Valley.”

“The Ashton workplace agreement is out of date, unsustainable and requires improvement to support the future of the operation.”

Chinese miner, Yancoal, has been operating the Ashton underground mine since 2009 and after acquiring Rio Tinto’s Hunter Valley assets – Mount Thorley Warkworth (MTW) and Hunter Valley Operations (HVO) – in September 2017, are now a significant player in the local industry.

Last month the company announced that approximately 78 contract crib relief haul truck operators – employed by Programmed –  were no longer required at MTW following a restructure of the operation’s current excavator rosters.

Then on Friday (March 9), Yancoal confirmed another 46 operators working in the same roles at HVO will also be finishing up.

A spokesperson said Yancoal has removed the crib relief rosters previously established by Rio Tinto at both HVO and Mount Thorley Warkworth (MTW), having found the rosters to be unnecessary to day-to-day operations.

“We understand Programmed Skilled Workforce has already successfully redeployed the majority of MTW contractors affected by the recent change in roster and is similarly looking to redeploy HVO-based contractors where possible,” the spokesperson said.