Fair Work Commission hands down recommendation to Griffin Coal

Australian Services Union WA branch secretary Wayne Wood presenting a cheque to the maintenance workers at Griffin Coal. Photo by Ashley Bolt.
Australian Services Union WA branch secretary Wayne Wood presenting a cheque to the maintenance workers at Griffin Coal. Photo by Ashley Bolt.

Griffin Coal’s maintenance workers are another step closer to stopping their protected industrial action with the Fair Work Commission handing down its recommendation to Griffin Coal.

The Commission provided Griffin Coal its recommendation on Monday which was the same as the in-principle agreement reached last month but with one difference.

Fair Work Commission deputy president Bull acknowledged in the recommendation that during negotiations there had been “significant concessions by both parties”.

“An impasse has now been reached with each party stating they are unable to compromise on their respective positions any further,” he said.

He said the recommendation was “an attempt to bring to a close this protracted dispute that is impacting on Griffin Coal’s operations its employees and the Collie community”.

One of the contentious issues arising from the contract negotiations was about the rate of pay for a 12 hour shift.

The agreement signed by Griffin Coal’s production workers puts them on a rate of about $116,000 per annum if the staff work a 12 hour shift.

The Australian Manufacturing Workers Union wanted the maintenance employees to receive about $120,000 per annum for a 12 hour shift.

This would maintain a 4 per cent relativity differential above the production staff.

However, Griffin Coal wanted an annualised rate of about $110,000 which would be a discounted rate for a 12 hour shift.

The recommendation states the rate for a 12 hour shift remain at that proposed by Griffin Coal.

But if 10 or more production workers is on a 12 hour roster of more than 21 days and maintenance staff are working a 12 hour roster at the same time it shall revert to a rate no less than the 12 hour production rate plus 4 per cent for as long as the production workforce remain on a 12 hour arrangement.

“The variation regarding the protection of relativities is a sensible solution that takes into consideration

“Griffin Coal’s situation but also protects the position of our members,” AMWU Assistant Branch Secretary Glenn McLaren said.

“We would be extremely disappointed if Griffin Coal took the unprecedented step and ignored the Commission’s recommendation, particularly one as sensible as this.

“We now urge them in the strongest terms, to pick up the recommendation from Deputy President Bull, and let the parties move on from this dispute.” 

Griffin Coal spokesperson James Riordan said Griffin was appreciative of the work the Fair Work Commission has done in trying to resolve the dispute and “hopes that its recommendation will be helpful in finalising the negotiations”.

He also said he was ”disappointed” with AMWU for its comments about Griffin rescinding an in-principle agreement.

“Griffin was disappointed with the AMWU comments reported last week which were simply untrue and inflammatory,” he said.

Griffin Coal are not legally obliged to accept the recommendation and the adoption of it has to be agreed upon by both parties.

“I strongly urge both parties to seriously consider endorsing the recommendation,” deputy president Bull said.

The next step is for the parties to advise each other and the commission within seven days of their intention to accept or otherwise the recommendation.

If accepted by both parties it is intended to resolve the dispute based on the package discussed at the 16 November conference.

It has been a long road for the Griffin Coal maintenance workers with the negotiations of a new Enterprise Agreement beginning in March 2015.

The maintenance workers have been on strike for 17 weeks which has made a significant financial impact on them.

During the industrial action the AMWU set up a fighting fund to help the members get through.

Most recently, the workers received a $20,200 donation from the Australian Services Union.

Australian Services Union WA branch secretary Wayne Wood said they were motivated to donate the money due to the financial pressure that industrial action can cause for its participants.

“We were hearing stories about how people were negotiating with their banks about their mortgages and we were concerned with Christmas fast approaching. The stories we were hearing are pretty hard stories,” he said.

AMWU South West organiser Brant Softley said the union was appreciative of the donation and support provided. He also said it was donations that allowed the workers to continue industrial action.

“It means [the maintenance workers at Griffin Coal] will have some form of income heading towards Christmas. 

“It might not be a huge amount [once it’s split up between the 29 workers on strike], but it’s something that may put a little sunshine upon the world [after] a very dim sixteen weeks,” he said.