BMA coal miners vote for more strikes

Workers across BMA’s seven coal mines yesterday voted to carry out further strikes.

At mass meetings at Moranbah, Emerald, Dysart, and Blackwater miners rejected BMA;s latest offer and will instead hold another week’s worth of strikes "to protest the company reneging on key in-principle agreement", the CMFEU says.

According to CFMEU district president Stephen Smyth "workers were furious at the company after management went back on its word during negotiations on important rostering issues".

However this has been rejected by BMA.

Smyth countered, stating "the workers are ropable that these negotiations have gone on for so long and just when they thought a resolution was getting nearer, the company comes back to the table having altered in-principle agreement clauses.

"The company partly blaming industrial action in declaring force majeure this week didn’t help. Force majeure is declaring that you can not fulfill a contract for reasons beyond your control.

"The workers were insulted that BHP considers it somehow beyond its control to offer an agreement that doesn’t insult more than 90% of its workforce."

BMA declared force majeure on Tuesday, blaming bad weather and industrial action for not meeting contract requirements.

Goldman Sachs analysts have warned the industrial action may impact "market sentiment and prices" in the short to medium term.

The commodities researcher said the slowdown would also ripple through the global coking coal industry, with BMA supplying around 18 per cent of seaborne supply in 2011.

In a note to clients on Friday Goldman Sachs said BHP’s labour problems were symptomatic of challenges faced by other companies in Australia.

Smyth stated that BMA has consistently failed to "negotiate in good faith", adding that the management "are just gunning to improve their record profits during the mining boom and they see smashing the rights of their workforce as a speed bump along the way".

BMA again rejected Smyth’s comments, saying its representatives had spent more than 80 days of meetings with the unions for 18 months, according to The Australian.

"It was only after the parties were unable to reach agreement on a threshold issue and the unions abandoned our last round of talks that we elected to put the latest version of the proposed enterprise agreement to an employee vote," a BMA spokesperson said.

While the miner and the unions are unable to reach an agreement, reports have surfaced that QR National may be able to force Fair Work Australia to end the industrial disputes.

The rail haulage company may ask Fair Work Australia to intervene in the enterprise bargaining negotiations by showing that the strikes have damaged its business, the AFR reports.

The company has reportedly already been forced to downgrade its earning due to the battle between BMA and the CFMEU.

According to a number of lawyers, QR has the right to intervene in these strikes and could even seek to have industrial action terminated.

While QR has declined to say whether it would intervene, CFMEU district president Steve Smyth acknowledged there was the potential for QR to step in. 

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