Strikes threaten BHP coal in Bowen Basin, Illawarra

 Industrial action by the CFMEU is threatening to shut down BHP Billiton’s Port Kembla Coal Terminal as its Bowen Basin coal mines face a similar predicament.

Unless a last minute deal is negotiated on new enterprise agreements, a proposed week long strike is likely to shut down the coal terminal, the Illawarra Mercury reports.

CFMEU district vice president Bob Timbs yesterday said the deal put forth by the coal terminal was knocked back and industrial action next week is likely.

"At this stage if we can’t come up with an agreement by 7am next Wednesday, we’ll be shutting down the Port Kembla Coal Terminal for seven days," he told the Mercury.

The workers are demanding a 4.5% pay rise and increased job security.

"Port Kembla Coal Terminal management, under advice by BHP Billiton, are trying to have some jobs which are under the agreement removed," Timbs said.

"The other thing is some certainty on manning levels."

While coal terminal general manager Peter Green refused to comment on the stumbling blocks in the agreement, he did say that negotiations are continuing.

At BHP’s nearby West Cliff coal mine, negotiations are also failing, with Timbs stating that strike action over pay may be on the horizon.

BHP’s joint venture BMA coal mines in the Bowen Basin, Queensland, are still seeing ongoing industrial action.

Late yesterday, the Single Bargaining Unit (SBU) rejected a ‘last and final offer’ from BMA.

The negotiations, which have gone on for more than 12 months, cover 3500 workers across several coal mines, according to The Business Spectator.

The region’s CFMEU reportedly voted "overwhelmingly" against BMA’s latest offer.

The union will meet with members next week to also recommend they reject the 14th draft of the enterprise agreement, claiming that it negates union rights in the workplace.

Last week it was believed that unions talks across the Queensland coal mines had made progress.

At the time CFMEU district president Steve Smyth stated they were beginning to make headway.

"I’m a lot more optimistic today [than I was the previous week] and that’s obviously based on the way BHP has approach these talks for the last well over 12 months now," he said.

"I must say they’ve come back to the table with a bit of a different attitude and we have made some progress.

"Obviously the devil will be in the detail."

The BMA and CFMEU negotiations saw a number industrial actions over the year, with Smyth stating the union was angry that despite making a $23 billion profit this year BHP had backed away from a commitment to family-friendly rosters and a fair housing policy.

In November last year, BMA sought an end to the strikes via increased meetings with the SBU.

A BMA spokesperson told the SBU, which is made up of a number of workers unions, that it is aiming for more meetings "in order to further accelerate" enterprise agreement negotiations.

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