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Unions at odds over job losses

A RESTRUCTURE at the coal industry’s legislated workers compensation insurer has led to the main white collar union taking aim at the mineworkers union, which is a half-owner of the insurer.
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The dispute is over a restructure at Coal Mines Insurance, a subsidiary of industry body Coal Services, which is half-owned by the Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union, and half-owned by the mining industry peak body, the Minerals Council of NSW.

The Community and Public Sector Union, which represents most of the 90-odd workers at Singleton, Speers Point and the Illawarra affected by the restructure, says its members are being treated in a way that the CFMEU would never accept as far as its members are concerned.

But the northern district president of the CFMEU’s mining division, Peter Jordan, declined to address this issue, and referred the Newcastle Herald instead to the chief executive of Coal Services, Lucy Flemming.

CPSU organiser Ian Braithwaite said on Wednesday that his union had taken the restructure to Fair Work Australia after negotiations broke down.

Mr Braithwaite said Coal Mines Insurance had lost money in recent years –its annual report shows losses of more than $50 million in 2016 and 2017 –and the employees were feeling the brunt.

“They have been told for at least four years that they needed to put their premiums up,” Mr Braithwaite said.

“They have, now, but they are also undertaking this restructure and while the actual job numbers may be remaining the same, there is no guarantee that people will keep the conditions they are on if CMI is allowed to do this as a ‘spill and fill’, even if they deny that’s what it is.”

Mr Braithwaite said the restructure was announced in late May with 11 positions being directly appointed and the rest of the 92 employees being told they would have to apply for the new positions, with no guarantees they would get them.

“While there are some changes, we saymost of the positions are the same as before and the employees should be directly appointed to the new positions, asprovided for in the enterprise agreement.

“We have been to the Fair Work Commission twice so far and the commissioner has said he will hand down his arbitration decision on August 29.

“We have no problems with them restructuring, it’s just the way that they are doing it.”

A spokesperson for Coal Services confirmed therestructure, and acknowledged a “sticking point” with the CPSU over “how many positions in the new structure will be directly appointed and how many will go through the process of competitive application”.

The spokesperson said the restructure was needed because a “new way of working” would focus on “early intervention, injury management and prevention for workers in a more efficient way”.

Coal Services would not comment further because the matter was before the commission, beyond saying it would respect the August 29 decision.

Mr Braithwaite said that if this was the case it should stop accepting redundancies because the commission could say those people should be directly appointed.

Coal Services was created in 2002 when the NSW and federal governments abolished the post-WWII Joint Coal Board and transferred its assets and responsibilities to the union and the minerals council.

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