"Serious threat" marks second week of Tahmoor strike

TAHMOOR workers are on the picket line for at least another week, with a union official noting that other coal companies are poaching its skilled workers. Meanwhile police are investigating a threat made to Tahmoor management yesterday.
"Serious threat" marks second week of Tahmoor strike "Serious threat" marks second week of Tahmoor strike "Serious threat" marks second week of Tahmoor strike "Serious threat" marks second week of Tahmoor strike "Serious threat" marks second week of Tahmoor strike

Tahmoor, courtesy Xstrata Coal.

Blair Price

The longwall mine in the southern coalfields of New South Wales has been under an industrial relations cloud for the past 18-19 months as there is no progress on forming a new enterprise agreement.

Xstrata Coal said police were investigating a “serious threat” made to the personal safety of Tahmoor management on Sunday.

A NSW police spokeswoman told ILN an investigator was making calls and no further comment could be made at this stage.

“Acts of violence and threats to the personal safety of our people will not be tolerated and we will pursue every legal option in our response,” Xstrata Coal said in a statement this morning.

The company said its ongoing dispute with the Construction Forestry Mining Energy Union at Tahmoor “has now escalated to a point where an individual or some individuals believe violence is an acceptable negotiating tactic”

“We call upon the CFMEU to condemn this action and to confirm it and its members have no knowledge or information about the act committed on Sunday against Xstrata management.

“If they do have any such knowledge or information, we call on them to come forward to the police.

“This cowardly violent act is a disgrace and will not influence any outcomes regarding the establishment of a modern and flexible workplace agreement in accordance with the Fair Work Act and the new Black Coal Mining Industry Award 2010, if that was the motivation behind the act.”

CFMEU district vice-president Bob Timbs told ILN this morning the union had not been contacted by anyone.

“We are waiting for more information ourselves but we will certainly cooperate in any investigation,” he said.

CFMEU’s Tahmoor update

Back on Friday afternoon, Timbs told ILN he heard that Tahmoor “office staff” tried to move the longwall on Friday but the shearer encountered problems after two shears.

Timbs said the mine was using engineers as “strike breakers” to move the longwall.

“We used to call them another name but now we have got to call them strike breakers,” Timbs said as he noted that workplace commissioners found the other term highly derogatory.

He said management informed the workers they would move the longwall 15 metres then bolt it up.

The workers were told they could subsequently “rot out at the front gates” according to Timbs.

The union rep, who was only recently elected into his position after 22 years as a fitter at Tahmoor, said there were three to four office staff trying to run the coal handling and preparation plant.

He said there was no need because 21,000 tonnes was left on the stockpile.

In his new union role over the past six weeks, Timbs received feedback from staff at coal mines run by other companies in the state.

He said many were hoping the Tahmoor deadlock goes on forever as the mine provides a pool of trained blokes.

“Soon as they want to employ someone they advertise and someone leaves from Tahmoor,” Timbs said.

In the last four to five months he estimated about 26 workers have left Tahmoor.

On the roof convergence issues at Tahmoor, Timbs views management concerns as overstated and the union does send workers from the picket line if the roof is convergent.

“We’re not about burying our longwall,” he said.

“That’s the bread and butter for everyone. Sooner or later we’re going to have to go back in and we certainly don’t want to go back in there digging our longwall.”

Xstrata’s response

An Xstrata spokesman responded to the points raised by Timbs on Friday.

“If the Tahmoor CFMEU representatives spent more time addressing the facts and less time creating rumour and ridiculous accusations, we could possibly resolve the matter in the interests of our employees and the operation,” he said.

“The situation regarding the longwall is that on Thursday the CFMEU refused to assist Tahmoor management move the longwall to a safer location, despite having previously stated they would always supply labour if the face was at risk.

“The CFMEU and management had been advised by the operation’s geotechnical engineer that a move was necessary to ensure the longwall was not left in geological conditions which may have proven dangerous.

“The CFMEU’s refusal to help forced highly trained and experienced management and staff to start cutting coal to move the longwall to a safer location.

“We are disappointed the CFMEU has decided to put politics before the advice of experienced professionals.”