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Australian union demands Anglo American reverse decision to sack 90 coal workers

Mining heavyweight Anglo American Plc has come under fire from unions over its plans to lay off about 90 workers at its Capcoal operation in Queensland, Australia, following two months of industrial action.

The Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union has labeled the move a “hostile ambush.”

Glenn Power, Queensland district vice president for the mining and energy division of the union, said in a Sept. 29 statement that it was another blow for workers who have tried to bargain in good faith with Anglo American for the last three years since the previous agreement expired.

"This premeditated and coordinated attack by Anglo is nothing but a tool of intimidation aimed at picking off workers who are vocal about protecting their rights and conditions," he said.

The news of the proposed redundancies follows a surge in coal prices that is expected to generate an extra A$4 billion for Queensland's economy this year.

However, Anglo American said in a statement emailed to SNL Metals & Mining that despite the recent increase in coal prices, it believes a proposal to permanently park a full pre-strip circuit at the operation is the best option to ensure the long-term viability of the Capcoal operation.

The company began talks with workers and union representatives on its plans Sept. 27.

"If the proposal proceeds following consultation, Anglo American is proposing to conduct a forced redundancy process which will result in a headcount reduction of 90 roles across the site," the company said.

Anglo American added that it is encouraging workers to provide feedback and put forward ideas and suggestions on the proposal.

Meanwhile, the CFMEU wants the company to retract its position and return to the bargaining table to reach a positive outcome.

The union said protected industrial action is continuing.