I have been an underground coal miner for 14 years in Central Queensland and a member of the CFMEU.
I don't work at Oaky North Mine however I believe the stories published over the weekend have been over exaggerated. I have been to the Oaky North picket line on several occasions in the last 7 weeks and not once have I heard the term maggot, grub or scab used.
On arriving at the Picket line for the first time I was made aware along with all others on arrival to the Picket line what integrity and language was expected from us. On several occasions I witnessed workers driving through giving unwarranted finger gestures and spitting out the window to striking miners and waving and laughing at them. I ask the general public how would you feel being locked out of your workplace within this situation? I have made 4 key points for the general public and political factions to consider when judging the Oaky North Coalminers Situation:
Point 1: Unprecedented production of longwall coal in Australia without the regular workforce in Australia has never been done. A replacement workforce has been assembled at Oaky North and is doing the job of honest men with families. Not even in one of the most modern day stand offs at Gordonstone near Emerald did this happen under the ARCO management of the time where the ruthless American company which owned the mining lease that is now owned by Rio Tinto and operates as Kestrel underground coal mine. For a time the controversial black lung antagonist one nation senator Malcom Roberts was the colliery manager. Strike breaking longwall coal production has never been done in Australia this is the enormity of the unprecedented situation.
Point 2: The same workforce was regarded as the bench mark of Australian coal production producing roughly 9 million tonnes in 3 separate consecutive calendar years. As a coal miner I regularly heard the Oaky north miner took home big coal bonuses for their hard work. It was said that the men worked hard but Oaky North was considered the place to be for a permanent underground coal mine worker. So what changed for almost the same 190 men doing the exact same job?
Point 3: The men are only wanting to rollover their current agreement with no extras, no nothing, they only want to retain the conditions they already have. Is that too much to ask for? Can anyone name an EBA in current times where the workforce has had conditions taken off them in the coal industry? We are on the cusp of a coal boom, do politicians allowing this to happen lose their conditions or go backwards? No. Also the men are not striking, Glencore are locking them out. Workers want to keep working and bargain and negotiate in good faith just to keep what they have.
Point 4: Underground coal mining, a tough and dangerous industry where safety is paramount a worker without legal rights and representation is under a gag order. No one will speak up in fear of repercussion. Glencore are trying to strip representation of workers away from them. Are we in Australia or a Chinese factory where you line up at the gate and find out if you have got a day's work? Is this where Australia is headed? Please Queensland and Australia this isn't political or union thuggery this is outright corporate thuggery. Local councils and all stake holders and businesses especially in Central Queensland should be getting on board and fighting for the Oaky North boys in this situation because if corporate greed wins Central Queensland will become nothing more than an airport for the former mining towns which will become camps. Rockhampton and Mackay will suffer greatly also.
* This letter was written in response to a story that ran in The Daily Mercury 'Behind the Oaky North picket line'.
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