Mount Arthur coal permanent staff reductions a legal risk

BHP risks breaking development approvals for the Mount Arthur coal mine if it proceeds with plans to reduce the number of permanent staff.

Newcastle Herald reported that BHP had aimed to reduce the ration of permanent staff at the Mount Arthur coal mine to 60 per cent by 2017, which was outlined in the “NSW Energy Coal Strategy” in February.

Mayor of Muswellbrook Martin Rush said permanent staff reductions were inconsistent with development approvals for the mine, as well as statements made by the company.

“The council’s view, backed by legal opinion, is that the mine would fall foul of its DAs if it moved to having a significant contracted workforce,” Rush said.

BHPs labour strategy to increase casual labour at Mount Arthur appeared to contradict statements made in the “NSW Energy Coal Strategy”, which acknowledged that permanent staff were safer and more productive.

CFMEU Hunter president Peter Jordan raised the discrepancy, pointing out that BHP had increased its casual and contract staff to more than 200 people, despite statements made in the “NSW Energy Coal Strategy” document.

‘‘If you’re a casual or contract worker you keep your head down and do as you’re told because if you speak up about mine safety issues, you won’t be there the next day,’’ Jordan said.

A spokesperson for BHP said that market circumstances had deteriorated and the company regarded ongoing viability of the mine as a priority.

Image: Newcastle Herald

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