Solid Energy staff strike over pay dispute

MINING staff and contractors at Solid Energy’s New Zealand coal mines have begun strike action and instigated a national overtime ban this week in support of higher pay after negotiations over their multi-employer collective agreement broke down.

Staff Reporter

The Engineering, Printing and Manufacturing Union (EPMU) instigated the “low level industrial action”, which will include spontaneous rolling stoppages aimed at disrupting production at the 11 mines covered by the agreement.

The first stoppages began on Wednesday night when miners at Solid Energy’s Spring Creek, Terrace, Huntly and Stockton mines walked off the job for several hours.

EPMU communications advisor Neale Jones told ILN today that miners covered by the MECA at Spring Creek have walked off the job for the entire day after Solid Energy refused to provide transport to the mine.

“They told miners to walk up to the mine in hazardous conditions on an unsealed road with vehicles driving on it … so they won’t work today and are considering not working on the weekend if there is no transport provided,” he said.

“They are willing to work but they have not been able to.”

EPMU acting national secretary Ged O’Connell said the miners would continue action until an acceptable outcome is achieved.

“These guys do hard and dirty work every day in an industry that’s making very healthy profits. All they want is a pay rise that reflects this, but the companies are refusing to budge,” O’Connell said.

“Our members have made it clear they’re willing to fight for their fair share, and it’s now up to the companies to come back to the table with an acceptable offer. Until that happens we have no option but to continue to apply pressure through industrial action.”

Solid Energy chief operating officer Barry Bragg said at this stage the action is not having a major effect on the business and talks would resume when industrial action stops.

Bargaining for the new MECA began in April this year and has taken place over 12 days.

About 350 Solid Energy employees are covered by the MECA as well as 450 staff employed by contractors at Solid Energy sites.