The previous agreement expired in early April 2010.
BHP Billiton Mitsubishi Alliance’s plans to recover output since the wild weather in Queensland could potentially be troubled by industrial unrest.
Construction Forestry Mining and Energy Union Queensland district president Stephen Smyth told ILN that the main issues at Broadmeadow were wages and conditions, especially conditions relating to employee protections with workplace representation.
The BMA joint venture could also potentially face further problems with the EA negotiations over its operations covered by the “central” EA.
This workplace agreement covers the Blackwater mine and six other mines in the region, including the open cut operations of Peak Downs, Saraji and Gregory, along with the Crinum East longwall mine.
Negotiations started around November/December and this encompassing EA is set to expire on May 16.
Smyth expected this negotiation to potentially be a “long, protracted process” based on the attitude and approach by BMA representatives and the progress of EA negotiations so far.
While the union welcomed the recent departure of BMA chief executive Marcelo Bastos, Smyth said the negotiations for the central EA had been more difficult than in previous years.
He suspected that company management had an agenda of trying to reduce many of the conditions in the previous EA, and even conditions which were in place during the times of Work Choices legislation under the Howard government.
But what surprised him was that BMA was easier to bargain with for greenfield workplace agreements covering the company’s future growth project coal mines of Caval Ridge and Daunia.
“We had no members there and yet in the central EA, which covers a vast majority of BMA employees who are our members, the company want to play hard ball,” Smyth said.
At the moment, the union believes the tougher negotiations have reflected a change within the management mindset at BMA.
“In the last 18 months they have completely changed, from having an open constructive dialogue with us to pretty much ‘our way or the highway’.”
Once an EA is expired and negotiations have failed, the union has the right to apply to Fair Work Australia to take protected industrial action at minesites which can potentially impact on the supply of coal from BMA mines.
A BMA spokesperson declined to comment on the EA negotiations as they are ongoing.