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Peabody locks workers out of mine

Editorial
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More than 200 workers at Peabody’s Helensburgh Metropolitan Colliery have been locked out of the mine for 72 hours as the dispute around a new enterprise agreement continues.

The company took the action yesterday after staff planned further bans and limitations around production.

A Peabody spokesperson said the company would idle the mine for 72 hours “as a result of disruptive industrial action initiated by the CFMEU”.

“Despite attempts to advance negotiations this week, Peabody has been notified of further industrial action,” the spokesperson said.

“To minimise the impact on the mine and its operations Peabody is exercising its rights under the Fair Work Act to idle the mine for the 72 hour period of the notified industrial action.”

CFMEU south-western district vice president Bob Timbs said the company’s response was disappointing, adding that during last weekend’s industrial action, some employees had worked to secure the safety of the longwall, Illawarra Mercury reported.

‘‘Last week we went in to run the mine when there were some geological abnormalities with the longwall, so we drove the longwall into a good condition and the thanks we get for that is that now they’ve locked us out,’’ Timbs said.

He said the union will hold a meeting with workers today.

The most recent planned industrial action comes after  workers walked off the job for 48 hours last week following two days of bans on production and limitations by the mine’s workforce.

Strikes at the mine started in early October, with a 48-hour work stoppage held over the long weekend.

The CFMEU claims the new agreement would freeze employees pay increases, putting their wages behind those at other operations in the region by more than 20 per cent.

"First, they offered zero per cent increase in pay over three years, then they made a counter-offer with minimal increases over years two and three," he said.

A previous statement by a spokesman for the colliery said the company had been trying to negotiate a "fair and sustainable outcome for all employees and the company".

"Peabody is committed to working with our employees and the union to deliver an agreement which mirrors current market conditions, enables the company to manage current industry challenges and provides job security for all employees," the spokesman said.

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