SBU has rallied support from mine workers through its poster campaign.
SBU has rallied support from mine workers through its poster campaign.

Workers get ready to strike

THE three allied resource industry unions fighting BHP Mitsubishi Alliance for better work conditions will today find out if they have the numbers to legally strike at seven Bowen Basin coal mines.

A spokesperson for the CFMEU, one of the unions that make up the Single Bargaining Unit, was yesterday confident they had the numbers to take Protected Industrial Action should negotiations with the multi-national resource giant continue to flounder.

They said two days of negotiations had failed to gain “virtually any movement on the main concerns”.

“I am led to believe we have well in excess of the required 50%,” the spokesperson said.

“I would hazard a guess that in excess of 3000 members have voted.”

That confidence was reinforced with Central Queensland News when police confirmed they had been contacted by BHP regarding the possibility of a workers’ strike.

CQ News also confirmed CFMEU district president Stephen Smyth would meet with Mackay police on Monday, and Blackwater police have been put on standby notice for the month of June.

Emerald police officer-in-charge Senior Sergeant Greame Reeves said no preventative measures had been put into action “because nothing is required at this stage”.

“It has been advised industrial talks were being conducted throughout the state in relation to BMA,” Snr Sgt Reeves said.

But the CFMEU spokesperson said BHP Mitsubishi Alliance’s involvement of the police was “just a scare tactic”.

“The company (BHP) has prohibited us (the unions) from holding mass meetings,” the spokesperson said.

“That’s what we used to do in the past.

“We used to have stop work meetings where we’d get around to the Bowen Basin groups and tell people what’s going on.

“But the company has refused to let that happen this time. This is the only option they’ve left us with.”

It is not an issue of money, the spokesperson said, because the terms and conditions of the new enterprise agreements have not been finalised.

“Discussions with the combined unions are ongoing but key differences remain,” a spokesperson for BMA said yesterday.

“The unions are pressing claims that would create major cost, productivity and competitiveness impacts for the business, as well as wanting to reintroduce a range of outdated industrial practices.

“As these are beyond reasonable expectations, discussions have the potential to extend for some time.”

It was the same statement delivered to media outlets since news broke of the PIA ballot.

The SBU entered negotiations with the resource giant in December last year and began a campaign to rally support.

Its message has been spread throughout resource-based communities mainly via a poster and sticker campaign, as well as website updates.

Union members fear a return to WorkChoices, and are fighting against “un-family friendly” work rosters that would produce a steep increase in the number of fly in, fly out or drive in, drive out workforces. The workers also want better job security and the right to individual representation, which the CFMEU spokesperson said was their legal right.

“Look, we don’t want to strike, this is purely a worst case scenario,” the spokesperson said. “But it looks like we’ll have the numbers to exercise our legal right to take action against the company.”

The final vote was to be cast at 7pm last night at the Peak Downs mine site, after which the votes would be counted and the SBU would determine its course of action.

It was hoped by the union alliance the fact enough support had been gathered would give the SBU strength during their negotiations.

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