A long-running dispute between an embattled Collie coal mine and its maintenance workers has edged a step closer to resolution after both groups gave in-principle agreement to a proposed pay deal.

Griffin Coal and the union representing maintenance staff yesterday backed a recommendation from the Fair Work Commission that would see dozens of workers’ pay slashed but key conditions retained.

At issue is a bid by the Australian Manufacturing Workers’ Union, whose members have been on strike for a record 15 weeks, for maintenance crews to be kept on 12-hour shifts.

The AMWU has pushed for the condition and specified penalty rates in an attempt to ease the effect of a cut in maintenance employees’ wages despite production workers agreeing last month to work 10.5-hour shifts.

This week, Fair Work Commission Deputy President Geoffrey Bull recommended that maintenance crews working 12-hour shifts be paid at the rate proposed by Griffin unless “a production roster panel or 10 or more employees are placed on a 12-hour roster for more than 21 days”.

Maintenance crews, who will still have to vote on the proposed agreement, would be paid about $110,000 a year under the deal.

AMWU Assistant Branch Secretary Glenn McLaren said the proposal “is a common sense middle ground for the parties”.

“The variation regarding the protection of relativities is a sensible solution that takes into consideration Griffin Coal’s situation but also protects the position of our members,” Mr McLaren said.

A spokesman for the Indian-owned coal mine said “Griffin Coal ... believes it (the FWC recommendation) is helpful in finalising negotiations”.

Picture Griffin Coal mine in Collie The West Australian.