Australia: Locked-out Glencore coal mine workers face new provocations
26 February 2018
Australia’s Fair Work Ombudsman (FWO) has intervened directly into the long-running dispute at Glencore’s Oaky North coal mine at Tieri, Queensland. Over 170 workers have been locked out since last July, when they took limited industrial action over a new enterprise bargaining agreement.
The FWO informed the Construction Forestry Mining and Energy Union (CFMEU) last month that it had begun a formal investigation into an ongoing roadside protest by the locked-out workers near the mine site.
The FWO and the Fair Work Commission (FWC) industrial tribunal were established in 2009 as part of the former Labor government’s Fair Work Act. The draconian and pro-business industrial legislation was fully endorsed by the trade unions.
These laws virtually ban all strikes and industrial action, except those occurring during enterprise agreement negotiations, and then only after workers conclude a lengthy process, including secret ballots. Majority votes for industrial action must be ratified by FWC to allow what is deemed “protected action.” Companies, however, can lock out workers at any time during a dispute.
The FWO told the CFMEU it is assessing whether sections of the Fair Work Act “have been, or continue to be, contravened” by the union and the locked out workers.
The legislation bans “adverse action, coercion, undue influence or pressure, coercion relating to industrial activities.” In other words, workers cannot take any action against company strike-breaking, including, in the case of Oaky North dispute, replacing locked-out workers with contract labour.
The FWO has ordered the CFMEU to provide all documents relating to the protest, along with video and audio…