Supervisors at Illawarra Coal’s Appin Mine have voted overwhelmingly to support a range of protected industrial action, from brief stop-work meetings to week-long stoppages which may stop mining production.
Ninety-eight per cent of supervisors voted in favour of supporting protected action in the ballot, which was held on Friday.
About 50 mine managers are pushing for pay increases including an 18 per cent ‘‘market adjustment’’, plus four per cent rises each year, as part of a new enterprise agreement.
Association of Professional Engineers, Scientists and Managers Australia collieries staff division director Catherine Bolger said the result of the ballot was due to parent company BHP Billiton’s refusal to pay market rates.
Ms Bolger said supervisors were told by the miner last week that there was “no money in the bucket” to bring their base salary up to current market levels, despite having been in enterprise negotiations for five months.
‘‘This is a last resort for these supervisors,’’ she said.
‘‘They are incredibly frustrated at BHP’s hardline antics. They deserve to be paid fairly and in line with other mines in NSW and QLD.’’
“These supervisors deserve to be paid properly. They are responsible for the safety of all mine workers, the handling of explosives and making sure mine production is smooth - their work delivers huge profits for BHP.
‘‘Industry pay rates for mine supervisors have increased over the last four years, yet Appin supervisors haven’t received their fair share of that growth. They are now seeking an adjustment.’’
Illawarra Coal president Troy McDonald said he was disappointed the supervisors had voted to authorise industrial action, which they may take after notification is given to the company.
‘‘The union is seeking an increase of 27 per cent in salaried wages,’’ he said.
‘‘This is clearly not a reasonable demand especially in the current challenging environment in the coal industry with falling prices and a high Australian dollar.’’
Mr McDonald refuted the union’s claim that the increase would bring the mining supervisors’ base salary up to current market levels.
‘‘The union compares stable employment in the Illawarra region with a mobile workforce operating in some of the most remote mining areas in Australia where demand for labour is at its highest,’’ he said.
‘‘[The] Appin Mine supervisors’ base salaries have increased more than 18 per cent over the past four years including an average increase of five per cent in September this year.’’
Mr McDonald said the Appin Mine supervisors held important statutory positions to ensure the safe operation of the mine.
‘‘Although we do not know whether industrial action will occur or what form this industrial action may take, the safe operation of our mines remains our priority,’’ he said.
‘‘The threat or actual taking of industrial action by the union potentially harms their members, the broader workforce, the Illawarra community and the Illawarra coal business.’’
He said Illawarra Coal remained committed to negotiating with the mine supervisors and their union to reach a reasonable agreement as soon as possible.