Union anger over Blackwater redundancies

Blackwater coal mine employees are up in arms over redundancies announced this week which will see full time staff replaced with contract workers from Downer EDI.

With more than 300 roles axed, more than half the permanent workforce, CFMEU district president Steve Smyth said the behaviour of BHP Billiton Mitsubishi Alliance would damage the community of Blackwater.

“BHP wants to remove full time, permanent employees who live locally and replace them with contractors who have no job security, will receive less pay, and have inferior working conditions compared to current BHP employees under their enterprise agreement,” Smyth said.

“Communities across the Bowen Basin have already been ripped apart by BHP’s deliberate strategy to lock local workers out of jobs, undercut wages and conditions and destroy the idea of permanent employment.

BMA asset president Rag Udd said the service contracts were essential in ensuring the best prospect of Blackwater Mine continuing to operate in a commercially viable way and provide ongoing employment opportunities.

"Despite extensive work over the past three years to reset our costs and to safely improve the productivity at each of our mines, further deterioration of global metallurgical coal prices means that we must continue to find ways to safely improve our operational performance," Udd said.

Smyth said it was not correct for BMA say lower coal prices were the reason for the job cuts.

“BHP’s Bowen Basin mines are still highly profitable, especially considering that falling prices have been cushioned by the decline in the value of the Australian dollar,” he said.

“Any savings made by ripping off workers will go straight out of the Bowen Basin and Queensland and directly into the company’s pockets.”

Local member George Christensen also criticised BMA for making the decision to cut 306 permanent roles, stating that miners ought to enjoy full-time work instead of casual rates and conditions.

"We all realise there's been a downturn in coal prices, but if the issue is economic, the mine operators could sit down with the unions and sensibly negotiate rates of pay that work, rather than retrenching people and casualising them," Christensen said.

"There's also some onus on the unions to be realistic in what they ask for at a time when the price of coal is low."

The member for Dawson pledged to work with unions to find proof that job casualisation had a negative impact on communities, and called on people with experience of such changes to come forward and contact his office.

"I am calling on people who have evidence of full-time jobs that have been casualised within the industry to come forward with evidence so we can present it to the Fair Work Commission," he said.

"We can't go and get this changed on the basis of stories. We need hard proof.”

The two contracts awarded to Downer EDI were worth $225 million, and cover blasting services for three years, and mining and maintenance services for two years with the option of a further year.

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