Union backlash against 300 Blackwater job cuts

THE BHP Billiton Mitsubishi Alliance had gone too far in the casualisation of the workforce at the Blackwater coal mine in central Queensland with its intention to contract out 300 permanent and secure jobs at the mine, according to union leaders who are planning action against the decision.
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Courtesy CFMEU

Lou Caruana

Workers, unionists and community leaders will gather at the Civic Centre tomorrow to agitate against the decision, Construction Mining Forestry and Energy union district president Steve Smyth said.

“This can’t be about party politics,” he said. “Together as a community we need to pull together and talk about the impact of BHP’s announcement and the damage it would inflict on the people of Blackwater if it is allowed to proceed with its attacks.

“BHP is clearly looking for every opportunity to casualise and contract out the mining workforce in Australia which means less pay, worse conditions, a more hazardous workplace and compromised entitlements for the same work.

“BHP argues the changes are a necessary response to falling coal prices, when in fact much of the impact of lower coal prices is being offset by a sharp decline in the Australian dollar.

“So the argument that they don’t need these workers is a smokescreen – its about replacing permanent jobs with contract jobs so they can pay lower wages and less legal entitlements.”

Last week contractor Downer EDI announced that BMA had awarded it a two-year contract for mining and maintenance services at the mine valued at approximately $150 million with an additional one-year option.

The scope of work includes the load and haul of pre-strip material using BMA-owned plant and equipment, as well as maintenance of BMA-owned plant and equipment.

The second contract is for the provision of blasting services valued at approximately $75 million and has a term of three years. The scope of work includes the management and provision of drilling and blasting services, including partial down-the-hole loading services.

The works included in these two contracts are additional to those included in the $100 millionmining services contract announced by Downer in June 2015.

Smyth said BHP is proposing bringing in more than 300 contractors to replace permanent employees and have said the decision is not about cost but rather about productivity.

“Workers from Blackwater and their representatives have tried to engage with BHP on alternatives to achieve the same supposed productivity gains – but BHP has refused to listen,” Smyth said.

“This is despite employees at the mine successfully meeting productivity improvements on at least three previous occasions when asked. This time BHP has decided it wants to get rid of them instead.

“We will stand up for local workers rights and our community’s welfare and anyone who will stand with us is welcome at this week’s forum whether they be Labor, Liberal, National, KAP, Green or other.”