Glencore Locks Out Australian Workers


ON THE same day the global Paradise Papers scandal exposed the offshore tax havens and tax avoidance strategies of companies including multinational mining giant, Glencore, the company locked out 190 workers at the Oaky North coal mine in central Queensland, Australia, for a further two weeks.

It will bring to 132 the number of days the company has locked the miners out of work. On Monday, following a Fair Work Commission mediation session between the union and Glencore representatives, Glencore issued a lockout notice within two hours of the mediation session ending.

‘Glencore has already locked out the Oaky North workforce for 123 days, equating to a loss of 265,000 production hours,’ Stephen Smyth, CFMEU Mining & Energy Queensland District President, said. This further lockout will take that to a record 132 days. The workers have overwhelmingly voted to reject Glencore’s agreement on two occasions now.

‘The company has been exposed for their unscrupulous tax avoidance strategies. Despite making mega-profits from Australian coal mining, they want to impose an agreement on workers that offers worse conditions and rights than they currently have. Glencore has a single objective: to replace all their existing workforce with contractors they can screw over on pay and conditions.

‘It is not the Australian way to allow multinationals earning mega-profits from our resources to avoid tax through offshore havens. And it is not the Australian way to destroy the lives of workers and their families and communities so you can replace them with cheap contract labour.

‘We will fight Glencore every step of the way.’

Last month multinational mining giant Glencore received a stunning rebuke after the Fair Work Commission ordered the company to cease surveillance of Oaky North mine workers when they were in the town and at their homes. The Commission found the company’s private security operations were ‘outside the scope of what would be reasonable’. The Commission found the company’s behaviour ‘undermines collective bargaining and freedom of association’.

Employees of Oaky North had complained that Glencore’s private security guards were monitoring them and their families at their homes and in the town of Tieri. On one occasion, a worker reported that a private security guard had filmed them using body cameras while they were at the local pub. In its decision the Commission was highly critical of Glencore’s private security operations and ordered Glencore to cease its surveillance of employees as they went about their private business. 

Evidence before the Commission showed that Glencore’s security company was briefed to monitor and record specific activities by union members, including specific instructions such as ensuring the use of ‘long lens camera etc for photos of piquet (picket). We need to be able to ID individuals.’

It shows the private security company obtained the home addresses of every CFMEU member in the town. In evidence, a representative of the security company told the Commission ‘we know where everyone lives’.

The private security company applied military terms to its anti-worker operations, and likened union members to the Viet Cong. An email exchange revealed the private security firm referring to CFMEU with the comment ‘Charlie don’t surf’ – a reference to the Viet Cong in the film ‘Apocalypse Now’.

The Commissioner also ordered Glencore to withdraw a direction to staff regarding the wearing of union clothing at the mine, and to drop disciplinary action against workers. Immediately following the decision, Glencore issued a further lockout of workers, taking the number of days locked out to 117.

Queensland District President Smyth said: ‘Glencore acts as though it is above the law but its heavy-handed tactics have now been exposed. They are control freaks who think they can act with impunity and use private security guards who are military fantasists to intimidate and entrap workers.

‘No employee in Australia should be subject to this level of control through private company policies on what you can or can’t do while on protected industrial action. We are pleased with this fair decision from the Fair Work Commission. We are also committed to continuing to getting a fair and reasonable agreement that will benefit the members, their families and the community of Tieri.’

• Last week 13 Bupa aged care homes in Victoria had three days of rolling strikes by nurses and carers across their morning or afternoon shifts on Tuesday, Thursday and Friday. On the Wednesday, 400 nurses and carers staged a rally outside Bupa’s Melbourne offices. Australia’s largest union with 259,000 members, the Australian Nursing and Midwifery Federation (ANMF), announced on 13 October its members unanimously passed a special resolution to support a campaign targeting Bupa in Victoria.

ANMF Federal Secretary Annie Butler said: ‘We’re concerned that Bupa’s wage negotiations with the ANMF Victorian branch have failed to address the inadequate staffing levels that are urgently needed if elderly residents at their aged care facilities are to receive the care they deserve.

‘Unfortunately, the campaign our ANMF Victorian branch is running against Bupa is a snapshot of what’s occurring at nursing homes across the country, where providers are putting profits before people, sacking nurses and slashing thousands of nursing hours. The ANMF Victorian branch has been unable to recommend Bupa’s wage offer to its members because it simply does not address the inadequate staffing that is compromising the care being provided to elderly residents of Bupa’s nursing homes.

‘This includes the number of nurses and carers being rostered on every shift, particularly night shift where we know that often just one carer is allocated to care for between 20-25 residents and the failure of Bupa management to replace nurses and carers on unplanned leave. The ANMF Victorian branch is continuing with its unprecedented action against Bupa and is working hard to achieve safe staffing levels through its ongoing negotiations with Bupa management, but the ANMF Federal Office believes it’s now time for the Aged Care Minister Ken Wyatt to intervene and ensure that residents are getting the safe and proper care they require. And to guarantee that taxpayers’ money used to fund aged care facilities will be used to provide direct care to residents.

‘Without mandated staffing levels or care hours in the aged care sector, the Federal Government is allowing providers like Bupa to determine “adequate” levels of care and, as we are seeing at nursing homes across the country, providers can’t be trusted to do this in good faith.’