Traffiic slowed to a crawl in the main street of Helensburgh yesterday as about 100 protesting Metropolitan Colliery workers marched to the office of their employer, Peabody Energy, to vote on the company’s latest pay offer.
Arriving at the building, workers filed in to vote on a company enterprise agreement in ballot boxes provided by the Australian Electoral Commission.
Media were not permitted inside, and at least two workers emerged complaining they had not been allowed to vote because they had been listed as postal voters.
Wearing Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union T-shirts, many employees carried protest signs.
The 100 workers made up just over 50 per cent of the Helensburgh Colliery’s mining workforce.
The union has been at loggerheads with the company for at least six months after rejecting Peabody’s three-year pay offer of a zero per cent increase in the first year, and then 2 per cent increases in each of the two following years, plus bonus components.
CFMEU NSW South Western District vice-president Bob Timbs said the union had offered to accept the zero per cent increase in the first 12 months on the condition the company renegotiated at the end of that period.
The union had been pushing for a 4 per cent annual wage increase, and Mr Timbs said workers had been prepared to sacrifice bonuses to the amount equalling the 4 per cent pay rise.
Peabody said the company remained committed to discussions with the workforce and their bargaining representatives.
‘‘Peabody has put a fair and reasonable offer on the table that enables employees to earn additional production bonus supported by capital investments at the mine,’’ a spokeswoman said.
‘‘The difficult circumstances being faced by producers in the Illawarra, which is reported almost daily in the local news, is clear evidence of the challenges currently facing the industry.’’
Speaking at the rally, Helensburgh CFMEU lodge president Andy Davey pointed out Peabody Energy’s 2013 third-quarter release in which the company earned $1.8 billion in revenue globally.
He also pointed to revenue stemming directly from the Metropolitan Colliery, which showed Peabody posted a profit of more than $52 million in 2012 and more than $100 million in 2011.
‘‘Here they stand in front of us crying poor,’’ Mr Davey said.
‘‘Our government is selling out for a quick profit and the money’s going overseas.’’
In the release, Peabody Energy chairman and chief executive Gregory H Boyce said the global results, which were lower than in 2012, were led by ‘‘significant cost reductions across all regions and higher Australian volumes’’.
‘‘Peabody expects to settle the majority of its Australian metallurgical coal production in line with quarterly or monthly benchmarks, with about 40 per cent sold on a shorter-term basis.’’
An AEC spokesman was unable to comment on the specifics of the vote, other than to say it was ‘‘being conducted within the standard framework of these ballots’’.
Workers at the Metropolitan Mine are expected to continue strike action today.