BHP coal workers strike for first time in a decade

For the first time in ten years, Australian BHP coking-coal workers will strike, calling for job security and wage increases.

All seven of the BHP Billiton Alliance mines will walk off the job on 14, 15 and 18 June, in a move that is expected to drastically disrupt production, according to President of the Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union’s mining and energy division in Queensland, Stephen Smyth.

BHP is the world’s larges exporter of coking coal and workers say the increase in profits should result in better pay and peace of mind for workers at the company.

An analyst at Fairfax IS in London told Bloomberg he believes the industrial action will be effective.

“Any stoppage in the current market environment is likely to be substantial” and would raise coking-coal prices, John Meyers said
“We would expect BHP to cave in relatively quickly. It’s far more costly to lose coal production than to agree to a wage increase.”

Last week about 4,000 workers voted in favor of supporting industrial action.

“We’re still negotiating but the progress is very slow,” Smyth told Bloomberg.

He said the stop-work action will give the union a chance to meet with workers and provide updates on discussions with BHP.

The last strike at BHP’s coal mines was in 2001.

The strike would further damage the mining company, which is still recovering from a massive decrease in production as a result of the Queensland floods.

A BHP spokeswoman, Samantha Stevens said in an email “BMA is extremely disappointed that the unions have elected to take this unnecessarily aggressive action and that the company is “continuing to negotiate in good faith with the unions.”

She said BMA has offered a 5 per cent annual pay increase plus a $5,000 bonus to accelerate negotiations.

Earlier this month, vice president of the union’s mining and energy division said workers also want involvement in a planned roster system which would replace the current workplace agreement, due to expire 26 August.

He said other coal producers have been “more reasonable” than BHP in their approach and it should follow suit.

Image: The Herald Sun

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