Unions from the coal mine industry are embroiled in a struggle for workers’ rights to a family friendly work roster.
Unions from the coal mine industry are embroiled in a struggle for workers’ rights to a family friendly work roster.

Strikes may be only option

CENTRAL Queensland coal miners fear a return to Howard-style Work Choices after negotiations with one of the world’s largest resource companies reached a stalemate.

Bowen Basin mines are at risk of mimicking the “un-family friendly” work roster system of Western Australia if negotiations between the unions and mining conglomerate BHP are not successful.

CFMEU Queensland District vice president Steve Pierce yesterday said he struggled to understand how the multi-national resource conglomerate would lose out if it listened to the “reasonable terms and conditions” called for by the industry unions alliance which would retain family values and employee job security.

“Being such a large company I expect them to be more mature about how they conduct themselves at negotiations,” Mr Pierce said.

His statement follows the revelation 4000 miners are threatening to strike if BHP continues to refuse to come to the negotiation table in a “more mature manner” and discuss the issues with the CFMEU, AMWU and CEPU.

“What BHP doesn’t realise is that Work Choices died with John Howard,” Mr Pierce said.

“And that’s what they’re trying to enforce – Work Choices style conditions that aim to reduce the representative rights of employees.”

A Protected Industrial Action petition is open until June 2, instigated after negotiations between the union alliance and BHP broke down.

The unions are fighting to keep the current work rosters, better job security and the right to representation.

“BHP want to introduce a commute-style roster of fly in fly out, or drive in drive out,” Mr Pierce said.

It means work rosters would be on a week on, week off schedule compared to four on, four off.

“It’s a big push towards un-family friendly working conditions all in the pursuit of higher profits,” he said.

“This is not Western Australia and we don’t want it to be.”

Mr Pierce said there had also been a big move made by BHP to supplementary workers, and while he understood the company’s right to employ whatever workforce it liked, he said it should not be at the expense of permanent employees’ jobs.

“They should have the right to representation, that is their choice, not the company’s,” he said.

“Employees should not be dictated to by the company.

“Those Work Choices style policies are dead.”

BHP and the unions had become adversaries during negotiations, which Mr Pierce said was not the case when “the little issues that mean nothing” were being discussed.

“With the key issues, they basically aren’t prepared to even consider them,” he said.

While industrial action will remain a last resort and remuneration only be discussed after the key terms and conditions are settled, Mr Pierce said strike action may be the only option.

“Striking is always a last resort, we always try to resolve it,” he said.

“But this is nonsense from BHP not being realistic with their claims and conditions for employees.”

BHP was approached for comment but at time of print, no statement had been received. A spokesperson said on Wednesday that discussions with the unions were ongoing, and their claims were unreasonable and would affect the cost, productivity and competitiveness of the BHP Billiton Mitsubishi Alliance joint ventures.

“They want to introduce a range of outdated industrial practices,” she said. “These are beyond reasonable expectations.”

BMA is the largest producer of coking coal in Queensland.

Combined, its mines have a production capacity of 58 million mega tonnes a year, and its resources are shipped through the dedicated Hay Point coal terminal.

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