Union ups Collinsville campaign

TWO trains have been halted from loading coal at Xstrata’s Collinsville open cut coal mine on the northern tip of Queensland’s Bowen Basin with Xstrata noting a possible derailment was avoided on the weekend.
Union ups Collinsville campaign Union ups Collinsville campaign Union ups Collinsville campaign Union ups Collinsville campaign Union ups Collinsville campaign

Collinsville mine, image courtesy of Xstrata Coal.

Blair Price

Industrial action is continuing for a third week but an Xstrata spokesman told ILN that talks on the new enterprise agreement between mine operator Thiess and the Construction Forestry Mining and Energy Union could resume early next week, but he was awaiting official confirmation.

On Saturday afternoon, the mine workers and associated protesters managed to get Queensland Rail National to back its train away from the mine.

The Xstrata spokesman said some individuals put sleepers across the train tracks, which could have caused a derailment.

A Queensland police spokesperson confirmed to ILN that several women and men were scheduled to face railway charges in Bowen Magistrates Court later this month over “trespass and related railway offenses” at Collinsville on Saturday.

CFMEU district vice-president Steve Pierce said there were about 150-200 mine workers along the rail line yesterday.

This action successfully halted another Queensland Rail National train from loading coal from the mine.

Pierce spoke to ILN yesterday over the phone while the striking workers were waiting for the train to arrive.

He said the protestors, which also included the wives, mothers and grandmothers of the mine workers, were not blocking the line but were “reasonably rowdy at times”

There were about five or six carloads of police present and all the protestors and strikers were about 10m away from each side of the rail line, according to Pierce.

“Xstrata – who have got no money – have had a chopper in the air running round photographing people standing in the shade waiting for the train to turn up,” he said.

Xstrata since confirmed that the helicopter was used to check no one was standing on the lines and nothing was placed on them.

Pierce said strike breakers were now also being ferried in a white van and in troop carriers in addition to the red Commodore used last week.

“They have got people laying on the floor of the troopies, laying on the floor of the Commodore, laying across the seats as they sneak them in through the picket line,” he said of the tactics to make the strike breakers unseen.

The union rep said he believed that the strike breakers were from another Thiess-operated mine to help out with operational work around the wash plant, according to “fairly reliable” sources.

The mine workers have protected status to undertake industrial action at least until tomorrow.

But the Xstrata spokesman noted that protected industrial action did not allow them to stop the trains as they were run by Xstrata Coal, not by Thiess.

“The delivery to port is our responsibility not Thiess’s,” he said.

QR National said it diverted the train yesterday after the ongoing protest made conditions unsafe to continue.

“This follows a similar situation on Saturday afternoon,” a spokesperson said yesterday.

“QR National has now reversed the train from the site for safety reasons. Protestors have trespassed on the rail corridor near the mine, putting themselves and the train crew at risk.

“Safety is QR National's top priority and we can't stress enough how dangerous it is for people to enter the rail corridor.

“This industrial dispute is between mine workers and Thiess, not QR National. It's regrettable that rail staff are not being allowed to do their job and at times have been abused by the protestors.

“It's stressful for our drivers when people are approaching a train that cannot stop quickly. The drivers' professionalism in very difficult circumstances has been outstanding.

“On Friday, a QR National coal train had safely passed through the protest area at McNaughton mine [Collinsville] and travelled through to the port for unloading."

Last week Xstrata declared force majeure on shipments of Collinsville thermal coal to domestic customers but there is no FM on shipments to export customer at this stage.

The industrial action comes as both the workforce and company management fail to agree to a new enterprise agreement, with the previous EA expiring 2.5 years ago

The main disagreement is over the inclusion of a job security clause into a new enterprise agreement.