July 19, 2019
Our Northern Mining and NSW Energy District is losing a stalwart with the retirement of Darren ‘Tiny’ Watson, a coal miner and staunch Unionist for over 30 years.
Despite staying in the same workplace, Tiny has seen plenty of change over three decades. He joined the industry at Lemington mine, which went on to become part of Hunter Valley Operations (HVO) in 1993 and had multiple owners – first Exxon then Rio Tinto and now Yancoal. And when he first became a union delegate in 1988 it was with FEDFA, before the amalgamation to join the CFMEU.
Throughout it all, Tiny’s commitment to the Union has stayed firm, serving as a long-time lodge official at both Lemington and HVO and member of the district board of management from 2016 to 2019.
“He has always put his hand up to represent workers,” says District President Peter Jordan. “Tiny has always been willing to stand up and argue the case that’s required. He’s made an enormous contribution to our District and we thank him for it.”
The bitter Hunter Valley No 1 dispute began before the mine merged with Lemington to form HVO – but the fallout from the dispute where Rio Tinto tried to deunionise the workforce by introducing individual contracts continued long afterwards.
While the workforce had been bitterly divided, the Union encouraged those who had taken individual contracts back into the fold, gradually rebuilding density.
Rio Tinto’s efforts were for nothing. HVO still has a strong Union lodge thanks to the efforts of many determined and committed unionists like Tiny Watson.
Rio Tinto was the worst employer he has encountered in the industry, reinforcing his views that cooperation between employers and workers leads to far better outcomes for everyone.
“A mine site definitely works 100% better when management talks to the union and the union talks to management,” says Tiny. “If they let us know what is happening and what is coming up, then we can resolve any concerns before they arise.”
That’s why he says listening is the most important job of the union delegate.
“It’s often not a loveable job,” he says. “As a delegate you get flak off the blokes about why things are taking so long and you get kicked in the guts by management. But it’s very satisfying when you can save members’ jobs and resolve dramas.
“You have to listen to everyone and answer everyone – don’t just keep information to yourself. Union delegates these days have to be able to talk about everything, from workplace disputes to depression.”
Most importantly, Tiny says that being a part of the Union has given him plenty of mateship.
On behalf of everyone at CFMEU Mining and Energy, thanks Tiny!