Appin staff wants collective bargaining

BHP Billiton is fighting on a new industrial front in the Illawarra region of New South Wales as its supervisory and engineering staff seeks to win the same rights to collective bargaining enjoyed by mining employees.
Appin staff wants collective bargaining Appin staff wants collective bargaining Appin staff wants collective bargaining Appin staff wants collective bargaining Appin staff wants collective bargaining

The Appin longwall on the surface.

Lou Caruana

BHP Billiton subsidiary Illawarra Coal was asked by Fair Work Australia on Wednesday to explain why its staff could not be covered by an enterprise agreement as its intense negotiations with unions in Central Queensland over enterprise agreements reached a critical stage.

Supervisory, technical, engineering and support staff at Illawarra Coal’s Appin mine have been trying to reach agreement with the company for a collective agreement for more than a year, according to the Association of Professional Engineers, Scientists and Managers Australia.

The association has made an application to Fair Work Australia for a bargaining dispute and for bargaining orders because it claims the company is deliberately stalling a collective agreement despite the majority of its staff voting for it in July 2010.

These matters were heard at a conciliation conference on Wednesday with directions made for a hearing on October 19.

Currently staff employees are employed on individual common law contracts, however they now want to have a collective agreement.

APESMA collieries’ staff division director Catherine Bolger said miners and deputies working at the Appin mine had the benefit of a collective agreement, but not staff.

“Illawarra Coal BHP Billiton and Illawarra Coal are not respecting the right of its staff to choose a collective agreement if they want one,” she said.

“APESMA staff at Appin mine have voted to support a collective agreement and it is time the company stops talking in circles and works with us on a new

collective agreement.

“Because BHP Billiton is refusing to respect their staff’s desire for a collective agreement we are heading off to Fair Work Australia to resolve the issue.”

A spokesperson for BHP Billiton told ILN, “The company recognises the rights of employees to be represented by a union and that they can approach the company to bargain on a collective basis.

“Illawarra Coal has been meeting with, and will continue to meet with, representatives of APESMA and our employees.”

Meanwhile, the dispute over enterprise agreements between BHP Mitsubishi Alliance in Queensland and the Single Bargaining Unit – made up of the Construction Forestry Mining and Energy Union, the Australian Manufacturing Workers Union and the Communications, Electrical and Plumbing Union – continues to simmer.

Stoppages that disrupted operations at the three BHP Billiton Mitsubishi Alliance (BMA) mines on September 10 will continue until tomorrow and may be extended to BMA’s four other mines.

BMA has indicated its intention to allow employees to have their say and vote on an agreement during September.

“We believe positive progress continues to be made in the enterprise agreement negotiations and we are keen to see negotiations completed as quickly as possible,” the BHP Billiton spokesperson told ILN.

“Despite the progress that is being made BMA continues to receive notices of industrial action. This action is unnecessary, is causing financial harm to the business and employees alike, and is not helping to conclude the agreement any faster.”

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