HUNDREDS of Boggabri Coal miners have unanimously resolved to continue their fight for better wages and conditions, at a rally in Gunnedah this morning.
The union members began a 48-hour work stoppage last night and gathered in Kitchener Park today to talk about the latest negotiations and agree on their next move.
The members voted to: demand another meeting with mine owner Idemitsu; continue rolling stoppages; call another 48-hour strike if required so they can gather again; and consider a "ramp up" in industrial action if the company refuses to meet.
As all hands went up in favour, there was applause from supporters and a cry of "Stick it up 'em!"
Workers came from their homes in Boggabri, Gunnedah, Narrabri, Tamworth, Manilla and more for the meeting.
Construction Forestry Maritime Mining Energy Union (CFMMEU) officials updated them on talks with Idemitsu, which left them "bitterly disappointed" as the company refused to budge on its offer.
There are "12 outstanding issues" in the enterprise bargaining, including the overall pay packet, redundancy pay, long service leave rules and evidence required for sick days.
Package 'highest in Gunnedah'
An Idemitsu spokesperson said this afternoon its proposed new agreement contained higher salaries, many more benefits and a greater say on rosters.
"The remuneration package proposed would be the highest in the Gunnedah region, with far better terms and conditions whilst maintaining the current lifestyle roster," they said.
"The revised agreement we have put on the table will provide stability and security for our employees, their families and the local communities of Boggabri, Gunnedah and Narrabri."
'What's the difference?'
But union spokesman Peter Jordan told the NDL a major sticking point was the difference between the pay and conditions of the Boggabri workers and their peers at other sites.
"Coal companies seem to want to treat ... the mines in the Gunnedah basin [with] lesser conditions than they do elsewhere," he said.
"What's the difference whether you're a coal miner in the Gunnedah basin or a coal miner in the Hunter Valley? You should be paid the same, or very similar, in terms and conditions of employment."
He said to the gathered workers: "This is a struggle that you can win ... in strength and solidarity".
He gave the example of their rejecting Idemitsu's latest "substandard offer, overwhelmingly, by 349 votes to 3".
"I think that said it all and it demonstrated that you were serious about improving the wages and conditions of the workers at the Boggabri open-cut [mine]."
The two-day strike is the largest industrial action the workers have taken so far.