MINEFIELD: If orange is the new black, grub is the new scab for union members.
MINEFIELD: If orange is the new black, grub is the new scab for union members. Campbell Gellie

Oaky ban on 'scab', 'grub' and 'maggot'

PROTESTING mine workers have been banned from using the words "scab", "maggot" and "grub" outside Oaky North Creek mine.

The move is part of a Fair Work Commission undertaking to stop the escalating tensions between mine owner Glencore and the Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union which have been at loggerheads since May 8.

Since then the battle over the proposed enterprise agreement has resulted in 190 union members protesting at a picket line outside the mine and Glencore locking them out of Oaky North.

The Fair Work Commission heard from the CFMEU that, on July 15, 25 workers were threatened with disciplinary action for their behaviour at the picket line.

It was alleged this was for standing on the side of the picket line yelling "grub" at people; for holding a sign with pictures of grubs; and also for comments made on Facebook sites, including a CFMEU page and newspaper websites.

CFMEU barrister Robert Reitano claimed the behaviour at the picket line hadn't changed since protesting started but Glencore's reaction changed after the proposed EA was rejected 189 to two.

Glencore's barrister Christopher Murdoch said the letters were handed to workers at that time because they had come into work and that was an appropriate time to issue them.

The Commission heard that no action has been taken by Glencore to enforce that disciplinary action and the letters asked the workers to defend themselves against these claims.

"As far as I am aware, standing on the side of the road on property that is not private property and chanting "grub" at people who drive past is not unlawful conduct," Commissioner Ingrid Ashbury said.

But Mr Murdoch said it was hardly peaceful and "hardly conduct that (was) not abusive or intimidating".

Mr Murdoch said no action would taken on those letters until the application for a bargaining order was settled by the Commission.

Mr Reitano said the union members would not use the words "grub", "maggot" and "scab" until the matter was settled. But he didn't conceded that it meant using those words was wrong.

However, they did leave Commissioner Ingrid Ashbury with one concern.

"Just like orange is the new black, if grub is the new scab, what stops us from coming up with some other term in the interim period, Mr Reitano?" she asked.

Mr Reitano was happy for the Commission to make a ruling for any alternative words for "grub" or "scab" or whatever.

The application was adjourned for hearing at the end of August or early September.