Tahmoor dispute resolved

XSTRATA Coal employees voted on the weekend to accept an enterprise agreement, ending a bitter 23-month industrial dispute.
Tahmoor dispute resolved Tahmoor dispute resolved Tahmoor dispute resolved Tahmoor dispute resolved Tahmoor dispute resolved

The picket line at Tahmoor. Image courtesy of CFMEU.

Lou Caruana

The agreement, which gives its 200 employees higher wages and “intent” to retain full time staff, goes before the Industrial Relations Commission this week, and has been endorsed by Xstrata management and the Construction Forestry Mining and Energy Union.

Other conditions secured relate to leave allowance, shift and gate seniority and accident pay.

The company is now ready to invest in longwall mining equipment to lift productivity and overcome geotechnical problems at Tahmoor, an Xstrata spokesman said.

He said the EA was a “modern, flexible working arrangement” that brought Tahmoor in line with similar agreements at mines in the Hunter Valley.

“The CFMEU and company have achieved an EA and now it needs [to] move forward,” he said.

The company is now ready to invest “significant sums” to ratchet up productivity, he said.

“There is a fair bit of work to be done.

“Not only has Tahmoor been operating under a restrictive workforce, it has challenging geotechnical issues.

“We can now focus on these details more directly. It has the opportunity to be a very productive mine.”

Tahmoor’s longwall is facing roof convergence issues over the next stretch of 45 metres.

The maingate is ready to fall in and other strata problems have started to occur.

Xstrata’s spokesman said the company would outline in more detail what longwall and mining equipment the company will be acquiring once the EA is cleared by the commission.

He said progress is expected to be swift, as the previous work practices were a “hangover from the 80s”, with restrictions to the entry of contractors on site.

He admits that there is a need for bridge building to take place between the management and the unions at the mine.

“It was a very long process and the last few months have been very intense,” he said.

CFMEU district vice president Bob Timbs said workers were relieved to have finally secured an acceptable deal.

“Obviously Tahmoor workers would have preferred this agreement a lot sooner, but sometimes you need to take a stand on fundamental matters of principle,” he said.

“The deal we have agreed to this week is a long way from what was offered by Xstrata back at Christmas last year. We have now secured concessions on accident pay, employment security, crew manning levels and leave allowance.”

Industrial action at the Tahmoor longwall during the recent financial year reduced its run of mine production by 16% from the previous year to 1.55 million tonnes, according to data provided by Coal Services.

When compared to the 1.92Mt of ROM output for the 2007-08 financial year, Tahmoor’s production for 2009-2010 was 19% lower.

Coal Services also noted that the troubled mine had perhaps an optimistic forecast production of 2.54Mt ROM for the 2010 calendar year, compared to the 1.71Mt realised in 2009.

The CFMEU estimates that its recent industrial action had prevented production since the end of May, while the lockout of the workforce last month ensured “virtually no production” through to early September.

Xstrata locked the workers out of Tahmoor after they binned another enterprise agreement proposal in a vote of 197 to 6.

The workplace agreements for the colliery and the wash plant expired in April 2009, and industrial action at Tahmoor first started on October 23.