Workers at Peabody’s Helensburgh Metropolitan Colliery were locked out of the mine yesterday, after taking what the company called ‘‘disruptive’’ industrial action over an ongoing pay dispute.
Nearly 200 staff began further bans and production limitations on Saturday about 11pm, before being told the company would idle the mine for 72 hours.
A company spokeswoman said Peabody had decided to start the lockout to ‘‘minimise the impact on the mine and its operations’’.
‘‘Despite attempts to advance negotiations this week, Peabody has been notified of further industrial action,’’ she said.
‘‘To minimise the impact on the mine and its operations, Peabody is exercising its rights under the Fair Work Act to idle the mine for the 72 hour period of the notified industrial action.’’
CFMEU southwestern district vice president Bob Timbs said the lock-out was ‘‘very disappointing’’ after workers had agreed to perform mine stabilisation during last weekend’s industrial action to ensure the longwall was safe.
‘‘Last week we went in to run the mine when there were some geological abnormalities with the longwall, so we drove the longwall into a good condition and the thanks we get for that is that now they’ve locked us out,’’ Mr Timbs said.
He said union members would attend a meeting this morning to decide on their plan of action.
This weekend’s planned industrial action was to follow a string of stoppages in the past month, including workers walking off the job over the long weekend and for 48 hours the previous week, along with another three days of bans and limitations.
The CFMEU and the company have been battling it out for several months over a new enterprise bargaining agreement, which the union claims would leave workers worse off than other employees at Illawarra operations.
Mr Timbs previously told the Mercury the new agreement, proposed by Peabody, would freeze employees’ pay increases, potentially putting wages more than 20per cent behind other operations in the region.
Peabody said the company was attempting to work with ‘‘bargaining representatives’’.
‘‘Peabody remains committed to working with the employees and the bargaining representatives to deliver an agreement which reflects current market conditions, lifts productivity, reduces costs, enhances safety and provides greater job security for Metropolitan mine employees,’’ she said.