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Agreements end Glencore Hunter Valley coal industrial dispute

Perth — Glencore has settled a long-running industrial dispute at six of its HunterValley coal mines and three coal processing plants in New South Wales,Australia by addressing union-raised issues in new enterprise agreements foreach mine site, union and company said sources Monday.

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The new enterprise agreements cover all Glencore's Hunter Valley coaloperations including Bulga underground mine and the open cut mines of Bulga,Glendell, Liddell, Mangoola and Ravensworth, plus the Mount Owen, Liddell, andRavensworth coal handling and preparation plants, said a Glencore spokesman.

"Each of Glencore's coal sites in the Hunter Valley has now reached agreementwith its workforce in relation to a new Enterprise Agreement," said Glencore'sAustralia-based spokesman.

"These agreements are in the process of being registered with the Fair WorkCommission," said Peter Jordan, president of the Construction, Forestry,Mining and Energy Union's New South Wales northern mining district who wasclosely involved in the negotiations.

The enterprise agreements will last for three years from the date of theircertification by the Fair Work Commission, the Australian government'semployment relations agency, a process expected to take about two weeks, saidthe union leader.

Jordan said the union was "happy" with the settlement with Glencore, which hesaid was a sensible outcome for both parties, and "now allows us to get on andrebuild these mines."

The union's settlement with Glencore formally brings to an end an industrialdispute that erupted into strikes in early June, and has included 24 weeks ofrolling work stoppages by 1,435 workers belonging to the CFMEU.

"In the Hunter Valley all eight [mines and processing plants] will no longerhave any industrial action," said Jordan.

Strikes at Glencore's Hunter Valley coal operations had ceased for the pastmonth after the union's delegates accepted the company's proposed collectiveenterprise agreements on an in-principle basis, he added. This happened at a special meeting on October 20 at which around 40 uniondelegates representing union members from eight Glencore Hunter Valley minesites unanimously approved the content of the enterprise agreements on anin-principle basis, he said.

The agreements were put to a vote of unionized employees in secret ballots atindividual mine sites in November, and received approval rates ranging from68% to 90% in favor, or an average affirmative vote of 79%, said Jordan.

"It took two to three weeks to get all eight [agreements] concluded," saidJordan.

"The eighth [agreement] was concluded by a formal vote last Thursday," hesaid.

Discussing the content of the approved enterprise agreements for the GlencoreHunter Valley minesites, Jordan said they addressed the three issues at theheart of the union's campaign of industrial action.

"At these eight [operations] we were pursuing security of employment, improvedretrenchment pay, and an understanding on casual positions and permanentpositions," he said.

Jordan said the union and Glencore had reached an in-principle agreement on aspecial clause in the enterprise agreements regarding security of employment."I had to take it back to eight minesites for them to endorse it," he said. The security of employment clause means that in the event of Glencore needingto reduce its Hunter Valley workforce it will first look at reductions incasual or contract workers before moving on to voluntary redundancies andredeployments to other mines.

In addition, the company has agreed to convert a number of contractor posts topermanent posts at Bulga and Ravensworth open cut mines, and to increase theopportunities for workers to undergo training.

Jordan also said the union and the company had reached an agreement on thebasis of future redundancy payments to retrenched workers.

This would be based on employees' average rostered hours, instead of astandard 35-hour week as at present.

This could lead to higher redundancy payments as Glencore workers typicallywork more than 35 hours per week and closer to 45 hours.

Jordan said in his judgment the union's campaign of strikes since Junehad "heavily" affected production at Glencore's Hunter Valley coal mines aswell as drilling and blasting activities to prepare overburden for removalfrom mine sites.

Glencore said it now has agreements with workers at 13 of its coal miningsites in New South Wales and Queensland in Australia, although, workers atGlencore's Oaky North underground mine remain locked out, according to Jordan.

"Oaky North underground continues to be locked out," he said, but adding hecould not comment further as the Queensland mine was outside his jurisdiction.

--Mike Cooper,

--Edited by Jeremy Lovell,