Queensland coal workers to strike on Rio Tinto mine closure
Perth (Platts)--12Nov2012/223 am EST/723 GMT
Workers at Rio Tinto's Blair Athol thermal coal mine in Queensland,
Australia, are to stop work for 36 hours over Tuesday and Wednesday in
protest at their redundancy pay offer, the company and union sources
Blair Athol is scheduled to close in two weeks' time after the coal
producer announced in August that it had decided to curtail production at the
Bowen Basin mine earlier than expected.
"Rio Tinto has plans in place to minimize disruptions using the
remaining workforce, and operations at Blair Athol mine will finish as
scheduled on Friday, November 23," the Australian coal producer said in an
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The company also expressed its "disappointment" with the Construction,
Forestry, Mining and Energy Union's decision to call the strike in the last
weeks of the mine's operation.
"We believe that the Blair Athol workers' enterprise agreement,
including the redundancy payments, is fair and was bargained in good faith,"
Rio Tinto said in its statement.
The CFMEU is alleging that its members at the Blair Athol mine have been
offered less redundancy pay compared to non-union members at the mine, which
it called a "parting shot of discrimination."
The union said it was considering legal options for its members at Blair
"Through good times and bad, we understand more than anyone that
industry cost-cutting may be necessary amid a changing market," Glenn Power,
CFMEU Queensland district vice-president, said in an emailed statement from
Blair Athol workers belonging to the CFMEU had already voted strongly in
favor of a strike to protest against the mine's closure.
The CFMEU said in its statement that it was holding talks with Rio Tinto
in July on a new enterprise agreement when the company announced its
intention to close the mine by the end of the year.
Blair Athol was nearing the end of its coal resources, and its sister
mine Clermont is ramping up production, though Blair Athol was not expected
to close until 2015.
In a statement in August, Rio Tinto said it had decided to close Blair
Athol early citing "the recent significant drop in thermal coal prices, and
other factors such as rising costs and the foreign exchange rate."
Blair Athol produced 2.8 million mt/year of thermal coal for Asian
customers and with Clermont, employs 170 people.
--Mike Cooper, email@example.com
--Edited by E Shailaja Nair, firstname.lastname@example.org