BHP to request federal intervention over Teekay strike at Port Hedland iron ore docks

BHP has shown its intention to ask the federal government to
prevent tug boat staff from carrying out strike action at the Port Hedland
harbour.

The ongoing pay dispute between Teekay Shipping and
deckhands on its tugboats looks to soon reach a breaking point, as the Maritime
Union of Australia recently indicated the success of a vote to take strike action
if EBA negotiations can’t be resolved.

BHP’s iron ore unit CEO Jimmy Wilson said that mining operation will have to wind down if the strike does go ahead, as stocks at the port are high, which can choke within two to three days.

“They are literally holding us to
ransom and that is something we have to push back on,” Wilson said. 

“It is highly likely that we would ask
the government to help in the name of national interest.”

“Industrial
action by the MUA will stop all shipments out of the Port and cost exporters
like BHP Billiton, Fortescue Metals Group and Atlas Iron about A$100 million a
day.

“In
addition, the State and Federal Government stand to lose tens of millions of
dollars a day in royalties and corporate tax revenue,” he said.

“Mining
companies like BHP Billiton will not be able to make up the shipments lost
during industrial action, and governments cannot recover the lost royalties and
taxes.

“Any
interruption to shipments of iron ore would have a detrimental impact on
Australia’s international reputation as a stable and reliable supplier of
critical resources.”

Wilson said the deckhands, who are paid
$137,144 per year, are seeking a 40 per cent pay rise over four years, however earlier
reports have stated that the MUA was seeking a 20 per cent pay rise, which was
denied by the union.

A statement from Teekay Shipping
revealed that the MUA has demanded an increase of no less than 11.9 per cent.

Wilson
also said that the deckhands want an additional 6 weeks off per year, however
the MUA has said they are seeking 4 weeks leave per year.

“Teekay’s maritime union employees at Port
Hedland are already the highest paid in the towage industry in Australia,”
Wilson said.

“Their
demands are unreasonable and out of touch with the current economic conditions
faced by Australian exporters.

“BHP
Billiton is actively pursuing the limited options available to the Company
under the Fair Work Act to prevent industrial action at Australia’s largest
export port.”

MUA secretary Will Tracey said that deckhands around Australia are payed 70 per cent of the master’s rate, which is not the case at Port Hedland.

SMH reported that disruption to global
iron ore supplies may cause a short term increase in price, which has fallen 27
per cent this year.

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