July 26, 2023
A jump in union membership from 60 to 90% of workers at a northern NSW mine has led to a substantially improved pay deal, showing the importance of union density to bargaining power.
Workers at Whitehaven’s Maules Creek open cut mine in northern NSW have just voted up a new Enterprise Agreement that will see base pay increase from $130,000 to $150,000 plus increased guaranteed bonus and improved conditions.
The new agreement closes a longstanding gap between the Gunnedah Basin mine and industry standards in the Hunter Valley coalfields.
Other provisions in the new EA include:
$30,000 bonus with 60% of the amount guaranteed
Bonus amount compounding annually with % increases
Personal leave now paid as if worked, as opposed to base classification for shift length
KPIs locked into the Agreement.
These gains were possible due to increasing activism on site which saw union density grow from 60% to 90% in around one year.
Maules Creek Lodge President Shane Hayman said he couldn’t believe the difference in current Enterprise Agreement negotiations compared to last time.
“The last EA negotiations were really tough,” said Shane.
“The company wouldn’t budge. This time, management knew that we had 90% density and saw examples every day of members standing up for themselves. We won a substantially improved deal because we were much stronger going into bargaining.”
Northern District Vice President Jeremy McWilliams said that Maules Creek near Narrabri in the Gunnedah Basin had previously been a tough mine to organise for several reasons including high turnover, high contractor numbers and geographical spread of the workforce.
However, in a little over 12 months, union density at the site has grown. He credits a tailored organising strategy based on workplace activism established through activist networks and training led by NSW Lead Organiser Bob Calov; along with a strong, committed lodge executive.
“Why should coal miners at Maules Creek be paid less than coal miners in the Hunter Valley. A look at Whitehaven’s profits shows they are earning plenty of money for the business.”
In the second half of 2022, Whitehaven were recording an extraordinary margin of $414 per tonne of coal sold. This helped them to a post-tax profit of $1.8 billion – in the space of just six months.
Pay and conditions for workers at Maules Creek were previously substantially behind. The new improved Agreement now means Maules Creek workers are now in line with industry standards across the Hunter Valley. Union density makes a difference!