Wage freeze rejected
Saturday, 18th January, 2014
By By Erica Visser
Perilya workers will receive nearly $2 million in wage rises after an overwhelming majority voted against a controversial request from management.
After reporting a $24 million half year loss, the mining company sent letters to 316 of its employees in November asking them to forgo a four per cent pay rise that was secured within a three-year contract, struck in 2012.
A secret ballot was held over the past few weeks and the results were tallied early yesterday morning.
The employees voted on two motions; the first seeking approval to vary the current agreement and the second approval for the wage freeze.
The second lot of votes were not counted after an “overwhelming margin” of mine workers voted against the first motion.
CFMEU Broken Hill Vice President Greg Braes said all but nine of the 316 eligible voters took part in the secret ballot.
“Of them, 244 rejected the proposal ... so nearly 80 per cent,” Mr Braes said yesterday.
“The management were a bit surprised by the outcome, I think they thought that people would listen to what they had to say.
“I didn’t know what to expect one way or another, I thought it might’ve been close but it wasn’t.
“I’m glad it was a big margin.”
If it had been successful, the move would have saved Perilya over $1.8 million, but Mr Braes said that the request was only one cash-saving mechanism Perilya would need.
“Well they lost $20 million, so there’s a lot more work to be done apart from this.”
Mr Braes said that he did not know whether there would be a backlash by the company following the decision.
The company got rid of 17 employees last year and Perilya’s General Manager Broken Hill Operations David Hume could not guarantee that more sackings were not to come.
“I have no idea, (Mr Hume) wouldn’t guarantee anything. At the moment there’s no talk of redundancies,” Mr Braes said.
“But they’re not going good, I’d be more worried about them closing operations than job loss, at this stage.”
But external factors were improving after a high Australian dollar and low commodity prices had plagued the industry for some time.
“The Aussie dollar went down below 88 (cents) for a while, that’s got to be helping things,” Mr Braes said.
“And the price of metals is getting better lately too, so hopefully things keep improving.”
Mr Braes said that it was a relief the matter was closed and workers could “get back to business”.
“The people haven’t done anything wrong in voting for this. They were entitled to the pay rise,” he said.
“It’s a good thing to get it out of the road and hopefully we can now get on with things.”
Mr Braes said that the union had not encouraged workers to vote one way or another.
Perilya had previously promised to pay the increase when it falls due.