CFMEU takes aim at BHP’s stance on striking

The CFMEU has slammed BHP after the company recommended changes to the Fair Work Act aimed at limiting the scope of strike action.

In its submission to the Productivity Commission, BHP Billiton proposed six reforms, including that strike action be a last resort.

BHP said its small suite of changes would allow employers and employees to work together to support improvements to productivity and competitiveness in the Australian economy.

The company called for changes to include the way in which union delegates are able to access mine sites and to ensure the Fair Work Act only contains enterprise agreement content to terms of employment and not operational matters that limit productivity improvements.

It also wants to see act ‘truly supporting’ an employee’s choice of representation and equally enabling both non-union and union streams of enterprise bargaining.

However the CFMEU has hit out at the mining company’s wish list.

CFMEU Mining and Energy Queensland President Steve Smyth said BHP should ‘stop attacking workers’ if it wanted to limit industrial action at its mine sites.

“BHP coal mines are producing record amounts of coal because of a good union agreement that facilitates improved productivity,’ Smyth said.

“Yet BHP continues to attack hard-fought work rights and conditions in its coal mines. If BHP wants a better relationship with its workforce it won’t get there through changing the law to limit industrial action.”

Yesterday, BHP’s coal president Mike Henry said the changes should be seen as both sensible and realistically achievable.

“We are starting from the perspective that the current framework for the most part is OK; but it has some elements that are unclear, inappropriately applied, or to be frank — pretty unbalanced in our view,” Henry said.

“Collectively they have significant negative impacts for productivity. And that results in negative impacts not just for employers, but also for employees and for the economy.”

He said BHP wanted a workplace relations framework that minimised conflict and disruption, aspects Henry says are missing from the current legislation.

“A good solution would not be to only implement one of two of them because it is as much about how the terms come together, that create the negative dynamic for productivity, as it is about each individual element,” Henry said.

BHP has had a tenuous relationship with unions, the most infamous being its 22-month long battle with the CFMEU at Queensland coal mines.

Henry said BHP was still feeling the effects of the strike action.

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