Union: Blackwater community faces 'deep uncertainty'

A MINING union has slammed BHP Billiton (BMA) for its decision to replace nearly half of its permanent workforce with contractors. 

More than 300 workers at the company's Blackwater mine in central Queensland are facing job uncertainty after BMA announced it would issue contracts for a range of operational activities to ensure" the ongoing viability of the mine."

CFMEU Mining and Energy Queensland District President Steve Smyth says the act is a blow to mineworkers and the Blackwater community.

"BHP wants to remove full time, permanent employees who live locally and replace them with contractors who have no job security, will receive less pay, and have inferior working conditions compared to current BHP employees under their enterprise agreement," Mr Smyth said.

"Communities across the Bowen Basin have already been ripped apart by BHP's deliberate strategy to lock local workers out of jobs, undercut wages and conditions and destroy the idea of permanent employment.

"It is simply not correct to justify this ruthless behaviour by citing lower coal prices. BHP's Bowen Basin mines are still highly profitable, especially considering that falling prices have been cushioned by the decline in the value of the Australian dollar. Any savings made by ripping off workers will go straight out of the Bowen Basin and Queensland and directly into the company's pockets. 

"It is clear that all BHP wants is a cheap and compliant workforce who they can sack at a moment's notice.

"A compliant workforce with no job security will be less likely to stand up and speak out about safety issues. Tragically, a contract mineworker was killed at this mine in March this year.

"Mineworkers and their families at Blackwater have been plunged into deep uncertainty about their futures today because of this announcement and the CFMEU's attention is firmly on providing support to our members who will be affected. 

"BHP is rapidly losing the support of the community in Blackwater and across Central Queensland where it operates coalmines. "


Excited and eager apprentices and trainees signed up on Thursday for their first day on the job at BMA Blackwater Mine. Photo Contributed
Excited and eager apprentices and trainees signed up on Thursday for their first day on the job at BMA Blackwater Mine. Photo Contributed Contributed


EARLIER: BHP Billiton Mitsubishi Alliance (BMA) has told its workforce that it has decided to award new service contracts for a range of operational activities at its Blackwater Mine to ensure the ongoing viability of the mine.

After an extensive review, BMA has made a decision that service contracts for the following operational activities at Blackwater Mine, with strict commercial performance guarantees, would safely achieve commercially important productivity improvements:

  • A contract for pre-strip activities and mobile maintenance awarded to Downer EDI Mining; and
  • A contract for drill and blast operations awarded to Downer EDI Mining-Blasting Services Pty Ltd.

BMA Asset President, Rag Udd, said the service contracts were essential in ensuring the best prospect of Blackwater mine continuing to operate in a commercially viable way, to provide ongoing employment opportunities.  

"Despite extensive work over the past three years to reset our costs and to safely improve the productivity at each of our mines, further deterioration of global metallurgical coal prices means that we must continue to find ways to safely improve our operational performance," Mr Udd said.  

"The contractual arrangements we are announcing today enable us to bring in dedicated services with performance guarantees to ensure our Blackwater mine can safely make further productivity improvements by meeting global benchmark targets."  

Across these activities at Blackwater, BMA currently has a workforce of 306 people, including a mixture of employees, staff, and contractors.

BMA will be consulting with employees about the implementation of this decision, which could include opportunities for redeployment.  

Mr Udd said that he understood that the decision would cause uncertainty for employees, their families, and nearby local communities, and BMA would endeavour to do what was possible to provide support and information during the implementation period.  

"As we implement the decision announced today, BMA will continue to work closely with employees and the local community to manage the impacts of the decision and provide regular updates about the consultation process," Mr Udd said.

Topics:  blackwater bma mine editors picks employment jobs

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