BMA strike talks take nasty turn

 More strikes are expected  next week as total overtime bans restart tomorrow across several BMA coal mines.

It comes as the joint venture company and the Single Bargaining Unit announce there will be no compromise on outstanding unresolved issues, the CQ News reports.

Close to 99% of more than 4000 unionised miners voted to again carry out industrial action after negotiations reached a head this week.

However despite the rolling strikes over the last year, BMA chief Steve Dumble said the miner will remain focused on staying competitive, and knocked the SBU’s claims that negotiations are over safety.

The unions says their principle argument is now over who is responsible for monitoring safe work practices, demanding its members supervise, while BMA stated that it wants to choose its own safety supervisors – even if they are not a member of the union.

CFMEU district chief Steve Smyth said BMA is attempting to take mine safety out of the pit and into the office".

BMA rejected this.

"Make no mistake, this is an industrial agenda and is about union benefits and union job security and not about safety," Dumble said.

"By contrast, our focus is on the future, on building a larger, more competitive business. A business that is able to create more opportunity for our employees, for our communities and for our other stakeholders."

BHP Billiton head Marius Kloppers hit out at the current union negotiations structures.

"The changes in law, and with things like prohibited content and so on changing, the number of issues that can be put on the table, which don’t only govern benefits and pay but extend to all manner of other things, it just makes it more difficult," Mr Kloppers said.

"It makes it less likely that people reach an agreement in a given time frame."

The company and the unions both wanted to resolve talks "with the minimum amount of fuss".

"But it is a little more difficult than it has been in the past, because the number of issues on the table, as basically regulated by the governing law, has expanded," he said.

While the company has stated that ongoing industrial action across its Bowen Basin coal mines may risk the future viability of the mines, CFMEU district president Steve Smyth pointed to joint venture partner’s BHP Billiton recent announcement of $9.2 billion for its first half profit, to dismiss the claims.

"Ever since employees overwhelmingly rejected BHP’s proposed Agreement, management have trotted out the usual excuses that the company couldn’t possibly afford to address workers’ concerns," Smyth said.

"How it isn’t viable to offer proper crib breaks for employees working 12-hour night shifts.

"How productivity depended on replacing safety officers performing vital open-cut examiner and mine deputy roles with management.

"These half-yearly results clearly show BHP can afford to start listening to the concerns of the workers helping it to some of the biggest company profits in Australian history."

This is the latest industrial action that BHP Billiton has faced, after it saw strikes at its Port Kembla Coal Terminal, and threats of action at its West Cliff coal mine.


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