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Union returns fire at BHP chairman

Tony Maher has hit back at BHP chairman Jac Nasser.
Tony Maher has hit back at BHP chairman Jac Nasser.

THE CFMEU has returned fire at BHP Billiton chairman Jac Nasser, following his scathing attack on Australia's labour force regulations on Wednesday.

Mr Nasser said, during a speech at the Australian Institute of Company Directors, business was being strangled by an "industrial relations system that pits labour against capital", which he said could never deliver an efficient and productive workplace in the longterm.

BHP Bowen Basin operations, he said, had been hit by 3200 incidents of industrial action within the past 12 months and more than 1000 notices of strike action intention had been filed with the company.

About 500 of those were withdrawn with less than 24 hours notice.

"It has not only affected productivity but has resulted in management being unable to operate its business in a fair and consistent way," Mr Nasser said. "The success of a system that allows for direct employee engagement and alignment has been evident for many years. And even though it has been in different forms during the Hawke, Keating and Howard years, it worked.

"I know it worked because I was running a cyclical, capital-intensive, heavily unionised company at that point."

Mr Nasser went on to claim attacks on mining magnates destroyed confidence in the Australian market, to which CFMEU national president Tony Maher responded that BHP had a strong bottom line and "it's time to stop whinging".

"BHP can't blame unions, or industrial laws, for its failure to work with employees and successfully implement a change program," Mr Maher said.

"It's not our job or the government's job to convince workers they need to accept longer rosters or have contractors on lower pay."


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