New management needs new approach, CFMEU says

In the wake of the shakeup of BHP Billiton's management, the CFMEU says it should also consider a new approach to workers.

Earlier today the miner announced a new lineup in senior management at the company, with many of the division heads replaced.

Following this the CFMEU stated that it should also bring in a new corporate culture to improve company performance.

Stephen Smyth, CFMEU Queensland district president, said "straight off the bat Mr, Mackenzie should ensure the company desists from its attempts to undermine the role of union check inspectors doing their job making the coalface safer".

"Trying to cut corners on safety at minesite level is not negotiable for mine workers and only undermines productivity by fostering a combative workplace environment."

He went on to state that "the bloodletting at boardroom level reinforces BHP's slash and burn approach to mineworkers' jobs".

“Getting rid of a level of management will help, but mineworkers and their families will look to Mr Mackenzie to introduce a more sustainable approach from the top down."

“Thanks to a reliance on FIFO/DIDO and continued insecurity from mine closures, our industry has seen an incredible rate of employee turnover and burnout.

“Bringing in a sustainable approach to mine operations and investing in skills and training will help address this, and alleviate a national skills shortage of the industry’s own making caused by a failure to train apprentices and poaching labour from other sectors."

Smyth went on to urge the miner to engage more with mining communities.

“In previous years BHP provided housing for its workers. Now, when we look at mines like Caval Ridge, its preferred business model is 100 per cent FIFO/DIDO whether workers like it or not.

“Better housing and family-friendly rosters will mean less worker burnout and stronger mining communities with those benefits flowing on to small businesses.

Unions have also been rallying on the wages front, stating there is scope to increase wages in the coal sector despite companies countering that they can not afford it.

Around 1000 people protested in Gladstone, demanding action on ways to spread the benefits of the mining boom.

The rally is part of the ‘Let’s Spread it Around’ campaign, which calls on the government to create policies which protects the jobs of local workers.

"We must ensure this once-in-a-generation mining boom benefits all Australians," CFMEU Queensland construction and general division secretary Michael Ravbar said.

"For the Gladstone community, this means more needs to be done to support local health, education and road infrastructure, all of which is struggling to handle the rapidly growing pressures being placed on it."

The CFMEU's Stephen Smyth said there had not been enough investment in skills training for local workers.

"A report by the Workforce Development and Productivity Agency last year highlighted that a third of 15 to 19-year-olds are out of work, that many companies don't want to take time to train them, and that Queensland had 'worrying clusters' of unemployment," Smyth said.

It came after the Queensland Resources Council announced the mining sector’s high wages are unsustainable.

"I know we're all enjoying them at the moment but they are not sustainable," QRC director of economics and infrastructure David Rynne said.

However, CFMEU spokesman Steve Pierce said workers who helped generate large profits and deserved wage increases.

"It's not harder for companies to make a profit, it's harder for companies to make the mega profits they've made over the last two or three years and they've become addicted to these massive profits," he said.

"There is still significant profits to be made in the coal industry with competent and intelligent management, some of that which is not displayed in Queensland."

Pierce says union members have reasonable expectations.

"These people are taxpayers, they've got children, they've got families to support – they are hit with the higher cost of living, living in the mining community," he said.

"It would be ludicrous to say that they should have a wage freeze when all of the products and services they are purchasing and have to pay for are continually going up."

The mining sector’s high wage have been a hot topic of late, with many claiming they are making the industry less competitive as companies also tackle a stubbornly high Australian dollar and increases in production costs.

The CFMEU was itself recently been under attack from mining lobbies as a war of words begins over these same coal workers.

The Minerals Council of Australia aimed both barrels at the CFMEU, responding to their 'Let's Spread it Around' campaign.

It rubbished the claims that the industry was not doing enough.

“The CFMEU should break the habit of a lifetime and start telling the truth about mining,” an MCA spokesperson told Australian Mining.

The MCA stated that revenue from taxes collected from the industry was invested in vital infrastructure.

“The industry pays more than $20 billion in taxes and royalties per year and that’s before payroll tax, the carbon tax and the mining tax are included,” the spokesperson said.

 “This tax revenue builds roads, schools and hospitals. On top of that the mining sector builds billions of dollars in social infrastructure across Australia.

“The benefits of the mining boom are already being spread throughout the economy. The Reserve Bank recently produced a report showing that mining and its related businesses accounted for 18 per cent of gross domestic product and employed close to a million Australians.”

With the change in senior management at BHP, the likelihood of similar movements at fellow major miners, the push for a greater engagement with the community and higher wages from the unions is likely to intensify.

To keep up to date with Australian Mining, subscribe to our free email newsletters delivered straight to your inbox. Click here.