Workers at Port Kembla Coal Terminal (PKCT) continue to fight to protect their jobs.
In April last year the Fair Work Commission sided with the bosses and terminated the workers’ enterprise bargaining agreement. The termination comes into effect on 29 March. If no agreement is made before then, 51 workers will go back to the industry Award and face a 40 per cent pay cut as well as major cuts to conditions.
After three years of negotiations and over 100 meetings, PKCT workers have made significant concessions, such as losing control over staffing rosters. But they remain determined to retain a key employment security clause. The clause prevents management from using labour hire or casual contractors in place of permanent staff.
In mid-February PKCT management attempted to pressure its workforce into a meeting without any union representatives. They responded with a three day strike and have rejected meeting with management until the company commits to retaining the employment security clause.
“They’ve obviously got an agenda to replace us with contractors, casuals and labour hire. What they want is to be able to use the threat of sacking us over any issues we raise at work. It’s about busting the union up so the workforce isn’t able to fight,” a PKCT worker told Solidarity.
PKCT management has claimed that the current employment security clause is crippling their operations. But during the course of the current agreement management has poured $300 million into new equipment and reduced the workforce from 102 to 51. Management have locked workers out for over 30 days this year alone, spending enormous amounts of money paying scab labour $900 a day, $1200 a night and $1800 for public holidays.
Workers at PKCT are also concerned about further cuts to conditions. “We’ve been told they want the ability to use us flexibly and apply the day work rate to Saturdays, Sunday and night shifts. Management are looking to use the time-off-in-lieu system to force workers to come in on a Sunday and a work a normal day rate, and then allocate a day off on a weekday.
“We’re not going to give up. I think about our kids; their futures are at stake.”
If PKCT workers are going to secure their jobs and a decent agreement, they will have to be prepared to defy the law, and build support to shut PKCT operations down.
By Matt Meagher