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Workers freeze pay to assist Perilya

Thursday, 31st December, 2015

By Andrew Robertson

Perilya employees will forego a pay rise next year in a bid to help the company’s struggling mine survive the latest slump in base metal prices.

Workers this month voted to rollover the current expired enterprise bargaining agreement, minus any pay increase, for the next 12 months.   

CFMEU organiser Greg Braes said yesterday 82 per cent of workers voted in favour of the agreement rollover.

“So nothing will actually change; the agreement will stay as it is but there won’t be a pay rise for 12 months,” he said.

All workers employed under the EBA were eligible to vote in the ballot which was conducted in the past week-and-a-half at Southern Operations and Potosi. Vote counting was finalised yesterday.

Mr Braes said it was the union that proposed the pay freeze during agreement negotiations with Perilya earlier this year.

It comes two years after workers rejected a request by Perilya to forego a four per cent pay rise due to them at the beginning of 2014.

At the time the company said it was losing millions of dollars a month and needed to reduce costs.

Mr Braes said that vote was conducted under different circumstances, and workers were now willing to do what they could to ensure the mine’s survival. 

It might even be enough to convince Perilya to re-open the former North Mine, he said.

“I believe the employees are showing some good faith ... that they recognise that things aren’t great and that prices for zinc aren’t good.

“I think this is just employees saying to the company ‘we understand that things are pretty tough and times aren’t good but the best thing we can do is try and work with you’.”

Mr Braes said uncertainty surrounding the local mine was behind the decision to opt for a 12 month agreement, rather than the usual three year term. 

He said it was too early to say if workers would forego another pay rise if the mine was in a similar financial situation in 12 months’ time.

“The mine might not even be open in 12 months if things don’t hurry up and change,” he said.

“We just hope within 12 months things will turn around.”

The agreement now has to be approved by Fair Work Australia and both parties have agreed to begin negotiations for the next agreement in six months.

No-one from Perilya was available to comment.

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