Transport Workers’ Union NSW secretary-elect Michael Aird said the industrial action was caused by the continuing refusal by Orica Explosives management to offer 130 truck drivers a fair enterprise agreement.
“TWU members have been left with no option but to take industrial action, which has seriously affected mines across the Hunter Valley owned by Rio Tinto and others,” Aird said.
“Our members are employed as truck drivers, delivering explosives to mine sites, and also as shot firers, who detonate the explosives, so without them on the job there is no blasting and nothing to mine.
He said EA negotiations had lasted more than 12 months so far. Related ballots on taking protected industrial action, including for an unlimited number of stoppages for 24 hours, were passed in late September.
“Despite our best efforts Orica management has refused to put a realistic deal on the table, even going so far as to put a substandard deal out to vote, which was rejected by a whopping 90% of the workers,” Aird said.
“Taking industrial action is necessary to get Orica to treat us fairly and unless the company starts talking sense this may not be the last of it.”
Orica truck driver and TWU delegate Scott Leighton said the members wanted an EA that protected their jobs and allowed them to come home safely at night.
“Unfortunately Orica management seems to have other ideas and the result is that mines across the Hunter have been seriously affected,” he said.
“It’s time the company saw sense and worked with us to reach a fair agreement that works for everyone.”
According to the Newcastle Herald, Orica employees last voted down an EA offer which reduced conditions to the extent that wages could be cut by up to $10,000 per annum.
TWU said the four-hour industrial action affected: Mangoola, Bengalla, Muswellbrook Coal, Mt Owen, Glendell, Rix's Creek, Bloomfield, Mount Thorley Warkworth, Mount Arthur, Drayton, Bulga, Ravensworth North and a number of sites covered by Hunter Valley Operations.
“Orica is disappointed that members of the Transport Workers Union in the Hunter Valley have not accepted Orica's Enterprise Agreement offer in the most recent ballot,” a company spokeswoman said.
“Orica is committed to continuing discussions with its employees with the aim of finalising an agreement.
“The company is working closely with its customers to avoid operational disruption.