April 22, 2005
Solid Energy seeks to drive down wages
Striking miners say they are seeking a national, multi-employer employment agreement to counter Solid Energy’s attempts to drive down wages by contracting out work.
EPMU national secretary Andrew Little said that mining was a highly skilled, dangerous job performed in difficult conditions, and that pay rates should reflect this.
“For Solid Energy to say that miners are well-paid and have no need to take strike action is misleading,” he said.
“Solid Energy is effectively driving down labour costs by contracting out work at rates that make it difficult for the contractors to pay workers properly. Contractors have told us that they cannot pay the going rates for miners because they are simply not getting enough money from Solid Energy.”
Mr Little said that under a multi-employer collective agreement, all miners would be on the same pay rates, regardless of whether they were employed directly by Solid Energy, or indirectly through a contractor.
“We want to make sure that those who control the purse strings are at the table when the negotiations take place,” he said.
Mr Little said that Solid Energy and its contractors had been given ample warning about the depth of the miners’ resolve.
“We have been warning them for the past six months,” he said.
Meanwhile, some 700 miners enter their second day of striking today. Mr Little said that the spirit on the picket lines was strong and determined.
The 48-hour strike is the first national miners’ strike in more than a decade. The workers are seeking a national miners’ collective agreement, a commitment to pay parity between mines, and a six per cent pay rise.
The mines affected by the strike are Huntly East underground and Rotowaro opencast at Huntly, Stockton opencast at Westport, Spring Creek underground at Greymouth and workers employed by Ohai Mining Ltd at the Ohai opencast in Southland. Workers at Terrace mine at Reefton, and those employed by Solid Energy at Ohai, cannot legally take industrial action until their collective agreement expires later this year.
Mr Little said that miners at Huntly East underground mine had now honoured their commitment to supply 15,000 tonnes of coal to the Glenbrook steel mill before striking, and all work at the mine had now ceased.