December 18, 2019
2019 has been book-ended by some great wins. This week’s vote at Boggabri for a new agreement that closes the gap in pay and conditions for mineworkers in the Gunnedah Basin and other regions is a great example of the power we have when mineworkers organise and take a stand.
We started the year with an end to the long-running dispute at Port Kembla Coal Terminal, with our members showing incredible solidarity and determination through aggressive lock-outs and ultimately protecting their job security against company attacks.
These disputes remind us that when workers are united and prepared to take action, we can take on multinational mining companies and win.
But it has also been a year of disappointments. The outcome of the Federal Election was a blow to our campaign to end the ‘permanent casual’ rort in our industry. Labor had committed to ‘same job same pay’ for labour hire workers and to strong casual conversion rights. These are principles we will continue to fight for in the courts and in our workplaces. However, there’s no doubt that unfair workplace laws and a government determined to back employers over workers makes it difficult to defeat the casual labour hire business model favoured by mining companies.
Meanwhile, we have had the shadow of the Federal Government’s Ensuring Integrity Bill looming over us, designed to make it easier to deregister unions and sack union officials. While it was wonderful to see the Bill defeated in the Senate, we should be prepared to see it return in 2020.
We have all been moved by a string of tragic deaths in Queensland coal mines this year and our hearts go out to the families of Allan Houston, Bradley Hardwick, David Routledge, Jack Gerdes and Brad Duxbury. We will never forget those who went to work and never returned home at the end of their shift – and we will keep fighting hard to improve safety in our workplaces.
Throughout the year, our Members across the country have gone about the everyday work that is at the core of our Union. Standing up for workmates, resolving conflicts, negotiating pay and conditions, enforcing the terms of EAs, monitoring safety – as well as so much extraordinary work in the community, through volunteering and donations and support for community events. As this edition of Common Cause goes out, our Members are out fighting fires across NSW to protect lives, properties and even coal mines and power stations. I thank all our Members for their contribution during 2019 – the Union is nothing without you.
To all our Union’s members and supporters, have a Merry Christmas and happy New Year. I look forward to another big year in 2020 standing up for mining and energy workers.