September 29, 2023
MEU members at a drilling contractor in the Illawarra have secured one of the best enterprise agreements in the region through boosting union density and taking strike action.
Members at CH4 Drilling have voted up a substantially improved agreement including a 4% per annum pay rise for the next three years – double the company’s previous ‘best’ offer. The new EA also includes set-rate bonuses, and most forms of leave paid as at work, and backpay to the outset of bargaining in January.
CH4 drilling is contracted to South32’s Appin and Dendrobium mines. Members at these sites have been bargaining for a new EA since January. In the months of negotiations, the company moved little on their original offer: a measly 1% per annum increase, which later went up to 2%.
To the workers at CH4, this was not good enough. Given the sector’s record profits, pay rises won by permanent South 32 mine workers, and cost-of-living pressures – they were determined to get a better deal.
At the outset of bargaining, union membership at CH4 sat at around 50%. However, over the number has steadily grown and now sits at around 95%.
“We got organised,” says South West District Vice President Bob Timbs. “We kept talking to the guys and recruited more and built confidence.”
This confidence led to workers deciding to pursue industrial action, with workers walking off the job in early August.
The single work stoppage resulted in both CH4 and South32 realising that they were now dealing with a united workforce, and the company’s previous ‘best’ offer was quickly and substantially improved.
“The guys finally said ‘let’s get into it’ and we did,” says Bob Timbs. “As soon as the company understood our union density they backed down.
“They gave us what we wanted on pay, bonus, leave and improved a range of clauses. The guys at CH4 have now got a Rolls Royce Enterprise Agreement, one of the best in the District.
“Congratulations to our members. When it comes to taking on the boss and getting us a better deal, they’ve shown how it’s done.”