The CFMEU claims BHP is planning to reopen its Norwich Park coal mine in Queensland with workers sourced from Adelaide and Melbourne.
The CFMU said it obtained an internal briefing paper by a mining industry contractor outlining the terms under which BHP Mitsubishi Alliance (BMA) is seeking to operate the currently closed Norwich Park mine near Dysart.
According to the union BMA wants to reopen the mine in July and has indicated that the success of the project will be dependent on being able to operate the mine efficiently while using labour that is paid less than is currently the case at surrounding existing operations.
“A strong desire has been expressed that labour should be sourced from lower paying areas outside of Queensland (Adelaide, Melbourne for example). They are likely to try and leverage off the labour model used at Norwich Park to generate lower cost labour models at their other operations,” the briefing paper said.
CFMEU Mining and Energy General Secretary Andrew Vickers said workers who lost their jobs when the mine closed should be given a chance to work at the site if it reopens.
“Four hundred skilled Queensland mineworkers were put out of work when BHP closed Norwich Park in 2012,” Vickers said.
“Now it appears that Queenslanders from Dysart or Moranbah or Mackay will have to relocate to Melbourne or Adelaide if they want to work at a local coal mine.
“It’s no coincidence that BHP is now planning to reopen the mine exactly three years after closing it, to avoid legal requirements to hire back the local workers it ruthlessly dumped. “
A BHP spokesperson would not comment on whether it planned to reopen Norwhich Park mine in the near future.
“In April 2012 BMA announced the cessation of production at Norwich Park Mine. The mine is in ‘Care and Maintenance,” a spokesperson told Australian Mining.
“Recommencement of production is subject to establishing a viable basis for the medium and longer term operation of the mine.”
In 2012, BHP said low coal prices and high costs had made the mine unprofitable, forcing its closure. It also said industrial action at the site had impacted on production.
Any move by BHP to source workers from outside the local area is expected to be met with fierce opposition after the company announced it would cut 700 jobs from its Queensland operations in September last year.
Jobs are expected to disappear from Goonyella Riverside, Peak Downs, Saraji, Broadmeadow, Caval Ridge, Daunia and Blackwater mines.