But in a sign that the dispute is far from over, the workers’ wives and partners are “manning” the picket today as new terms and conditions for an enterprise agreement are being considered.
If the workers decide that these are not acceptable, industrial action could recommence starting with a 24 hour ban on Sunday, said CFMEU district vice president Bob Timbs.
Timbs said the CFMEU’s offer of taking the dispute to arbitration or Fair Work Australia had been declined by the company.
A spokesperson for Xstrata Coal confirmed that workers are returning today and that negotiations for the enterprise agreement are in place.
“Negotiations between the two parties are continuing and that is our preferred option,” he said.
“The ball is in their court to progress negotiations. We have put up a revised enterprise agreement offer with some modifications that take into consideration the CFMEU concerns.
“There have been no changes to pay rates or scales.”
Timbs said it is “terrific” that the forgotten victims of the dispute are making their presence felt publicly.
“Stripping away safety and conditions doesn’t just hurt a couple of hundred men, it hurts wives and kids and the entire Tahmoor community,” he said.
“Let’s face it: coal mining has to be the blokiest industry in Australia, but this action from local women just goes to prove the true impact of what Xstrata is trying to do.”
Belinda Ashlin, whose husband, Daryl, will return to the mine today, said: “I know the community often think of this dispute as ‘men’s business’.
“But alongside every man working that mine there are women: wives, mothers, daughters, partners.
“When we talk about safety and shift lengths and fair conditions – these issues affect women just as much as the men.
“When compulsory 12-hour shifts are allocated or when safety standards are compromised, families are the ones that suffer.”