Port Kembla hit with strike action

MORE than 100 workers at BHP Billiton’s Port Kembla coal terminal in New South Wales kicked off a week-long strike yesterday, breaking a 16-year industrial action-free record.
Port Kembla hit with strike action Port Kembla hit with strike action Port Kembla hit with strike action Port Kembla hit with strike action Port Kembla hit with strike action

The Port Kembla terminal

Lauren Barrett

Workers at the terminal were considering a week-long strike if a satisfactory enterprise agreement with the port wasn’t reached.

Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union district vice-president Bob Timbs told ILN workers decided to strike after PKCT retracted its EA offer.

“We’ve started a seven day stoppage,” Timbs said.

“In conciliation the company went backwards in negotiations and we actually came out of conciliation worse off than when we went in there.

“The company changed its position to the detriment of the enterprise agreement.”

Workers had been demanding increased job security on top of a 4.5% wage increase.

However Timbs said remuneration was not the main concern for the workers.

The dispute is centred on the company’s attempt to “dilute” the coverage of the EA by attempting to remove some of the positions covered by the agreement.

Timbs said PKCT failed to reveal exactly what jobs would be removed, prompting the strike action.

“We are not happy that we’ve soured our good record, but where else can we go,” Timbs told ILN.

“We certainly did put a compromised position to them which was rejected.”

The union has not been in discussions with the port since Monday afternoon.

Timbs is unaware if negotiations will continue to take place during the seven day strike, but said rail stoppages at the port would be next if a sufficient EA was not presented.

PKCT general manager Peter Green did not respond to ILN’ request for comment.

The proposed industrial action could cause havoc for the coal terminal, which ships coal from operations in the southern and western coalfields of New South Wales.