Port Kembla Coal Terminal workers took their protest to the streets after the company locked them out for the fourth time in five weeks.
The workers formed a “guard of dishonour” outside Wollongong Court on Monday, where representatives of South32 were in a conciliation hearing with mining unions over a new enterprise agreement for miners at Appin.
South32 is one of the shareholders of the terminal, along with Glencore, Peabody Energy, Centennial Coal and Wollongong Coal.
The coal terminal workers lined up outside the courthouse and were largely silent as the South32 representatives walked in.
“We are here as an opportunity because we thought that at least the bosses might actually have to walk in somewhere and show their face in this town,” South Coast Labour Council secretary Arthur Rorris said.
The coal terminal workers were due to be back on the job on Monday morning after a four-day strike.
However, on Sunday night the PKCT notified workers they were locked out for the following nine days – until February 27.
Due to a combination of earlier lockouts and strike action, when this latest lockout period ends, workers would not have turned up for a shift for 38 days.
A PKCT spokeswoman said the lockout was “to ensure it is able to meet its contractual obligations with its customers”.
The spokeswoman repeated the company’s offer to the CFMEU of a two-week moratorium on industrial action “to enable negotiations to recommence in an environment where there isn’t the threat of industrial action”.
“PKCT has concern for its employees and their families and it absolutely does not underestimate the impact that the industrial action is having on them which is why the company is offering a two-week moratorium on industrial action so everybody can get back to work,” the spokeswoman said.
“Without that commitment, PKCT has no other choice in order to ensure that it is able to meet its contractual obligations to its customers and ensure the ongoing safe operations and sustainability of the port.”
CFMEU South Western District Vice President Bob Timbs said the request for a moratorium was “cynical and hypocritical”.
“Our members at PKCT have negotiated in good faith, attending over 100 meetings with the company to try and reach a new agreement,” Mr Timbs said.
"However, at a time casualisation has reached epidemic proportions in our region, they are not willing to stand by and let their permanent jobs be contracted out.
“What’s the point of negotiating pay and conditions when the company can just terminate people’s jobs?”