Wilson would use any means to get what he wanted - if you're prepared to blow up a smelter.........
WMC TALKS FAIL; QUITS $105M WA EXPANSION
|Western Mining Corp has carried out its threat to abandon a $105 million expansion of its Kambalda nickel mines in Western Australia after failing to reach agreement with union members on the introduction of continuous rosters.
The decision looks certain to cost the jobs of 150 mine workers.
The company said yesterday it had no other alternative, claiming Australian Workers Union officials had reneged on an agreement that would have allowed the introduction of continuous 8-hour shifts.
"The AWU's declared intention not to honour the agreement reached, but to rather seek further renumeration left WMC with no alternative but to advise the union that our formal offers were withdrawn," WMC's general manager of West Australian operations, Mr Phil Lockyer, said.
"Kambalda must operate at an internationally competitive level.
"If the only way we are allowed to do this is to downsize then that is the course of action we have to take," Mr Lockyer said.
Yesterday's announcement ended months of tense negotiations that began at the start of the year after a 12-month review of the company's nickel operations. The review recommended up to $400 million be spent on the mining, smelting and refining facilities to make these businesses internationally competitive.
To a significant degree WMC was successful, winning sufficient concessions from the State Government and employees to allow it to commit to expand the Kalgoorlie smelter, the Leinster mine and the Kwinana refinery.
But Kambalda, the most important part of the nickel operations, became the stumbling block. The company simply said there were two alternatives. These were to accept a 24-hour-a-day seven-days-a-week roster, or to reduce operations.
The demand for the new roster, which would replace the current 7 1/2-hour roster worked over five days, was made to match the competition, the company argued.
Negotiations on an industrial agreement broke down at a meeting yesterday morning chaired by the Deputy State Premier, Mr Ian Taylor.
WMC said AWU secretary Mr Bruce Wilson had accepted a final package on Saturday, which was subsequently confirmed by Mr Taylor.
The company claimed the union had then withdrawn from the agreement in an attempt to seek more renumeration.
Mr Lockyer said the company had shown good faith in the negotiations by retaining more than 50 employees at Kambalda who were surplus to the current operations.
Western Australia is the only State that restricts mining operations to five days a week under its Mines Regulation Act.
WMC has argued this has put mining operations in the State on the back foot, when compared with competitors here and internationally.
The company managed to gain support for this argument from the State Government but at this point the Act remains in place and union opposition continues to be entrenched.
"Without a full commitment to work practice reform, to eight-hour continuous shift rosters, we were simply unable to justify the capital expenditures necessary to mine deeper ore at some mines. We had no alternative but to downsize our Kambalda operations," the company said.
The Kambalda mines are WMC's largest nickel operations, producing about 32,000 tonnes of contained metal a year out of total contained nickel in concentrate of 54,010 tonnes.
However, the agreed expansion at Leinster and the likely start-up of the Mount Keith open-cut project in WA, recently acquired as a result of the successful bid for Australian Consolidated Minerals, has given WMC some production alternatives.
Although important, the company is now arguing some production at Kambalda is expendable if the right cost structure cannot be put in place.
NICKEL PLANS ON THE SLAG HEAP
1990: WMC plans $400m expansion subject to union/WA Govt approvals.
Sept 4, 1991: $127m expansion of Leinster mine after rail charges reviewed.
Sept 14: $50m upgrading of Kwinana refinery announced.
Sept 27: $41m to be spent on Kalgoorlie nickel smelter.
Nov 4: WA Govt to overhaul mine regulations to allow seven-day rosters.
Nov 11: Australian Workers Union against eight-hour day continuous rosters.
Nov 12: Abandons $105m Kambalda expansion after union blocks new rosters.
ROUGH ROAD TO MINING REFORM
September 1988 - Coal Industrial Tribunal ruling clears the way for flexible rosters in NSW, permitting production six days a week, 52 weeks a year.
March 1991 - MIM Holdings Ltd seeks $100 million of cost savings through work practice changes and redundancy program to guarantee competitiveness of Queensland base metals operations.
April 1991 - At Renison Goldfields Consolidated's Renison tin mine in Tasmania, 350 employees agree to a survival plan to make operations competitive.
November 1991 - WMC Kambalda nickel miners reject 7 day a week continuous rosters. Company says 150 jobs to go.
So 13 November, 1991 - sackings and no agreement from the AWU.
But by January 1992 - after the Thiess/Wannunup announcement in the Dawesville project and contract signing.......
Hon N.E. MOORE: That idea came from Western Mining management - from a mine in