NZ coal miner talks resume

MEDIATED talks aimed at settling the long-running coal miners’ dispute began today between the Engineering, Printing & Manufacturing Union and Solid Energy.
NZ coal miner talks resume NZ coal miner talks resume NZ coal miner talks resume NZ coal miner talks resume NZ coal miner talks resume

Solid Energy's Spring Creek underground mine.

Ben Sharples

National secretary Andrew Little said the union had put a proposal over the weekend aimed at resolving the dispute over the coal miners’ collective employment agreement.

He said proposal was modified by the company and gave union members enough comfort to take part in today's meeting, called by the mediator, "but not enough to withdraw all industrial action,” he said.

Earlier in the week miners were starting to feel the financial pinch, seeking emergency benefits as the drawn out pay dispute entered its fifth week.

According to a Waikato Times report, around 50 miners have registered for emergency benefits with government agency Work and Income, with more expected to follow.

The saga started when over 100 staff at the Henry Walker Eltin-operated Rotowaro mine near Huntly, and about 70 at Huntly East, were suspended after refusing to load coal when initial wage talks broke down. Another 35 at a West Coast, South Island, mine were also suspended.

The Engineering, Printing and Manufacturing Union is demanding a 25% increase over three years, while Solid Energy is offering a 20% increase over three years, including an immediate 5% increase. The miners want a 5% pay rise for this year and next.

The suspensions have halted work at the three mines and is reportedly costing Solid Energy $NZ1-1.5 million worth of production a day.

Solid Energy is no stranger to conflict; in April around 700 Solid Energy miners walked off the job in protest over discrepancies in pay between mines.