BHP coal miners push ahead with seven-day strike

BHP Illawarra coal miners are to strike for seven days this week, despite a return to work one day early by their Queensland comrades.

Staff Reporter

More than 300 BHP coalminers in the New South Wales Illawarra region will walk off the job for seven days this week over a pay dispute.

Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union (CFMEU) south-western president Howie Fisher said the union had met with BHP management today, but no progress was made.

The workers last week voted in favour of a seven-day strike at BHP's Appin, Tower and Cordeaux mines from Wednesday.

The miners are asking for a 15% pay rise over two years in their enterprise agreements.

However, BHP had only offered 8.5% over three years.

"We've given them major productivity gains over the last two years, the workforce has had major retrenchments, and the company has been far more profitable," Fisher said.

He said the parties today did not discuss the developments at BHP's central Queensland mines.

Miners there returned to work today, after a five-day strike, amid claims security guards had been employed to lock them out if industrial action continued.

Their strike ended last night, one day early, with workers at the Crinum and Gregory Mines and the Hay Point coal loader facility voting to return to work.

Fisher said he was concerned the same tactics could be used in the Illawarra when the seven-day stoppage begins next week.

"We are very aware of what could happen and we're very worried about that," he said. "We'll have to just take each day as it comes."

CFMEU mining and energy division vice-president Ray Barker said the Australia-wide waterfront dispute involving the Maritime Union of Australia demonstrated the folly of lock-outs.

"As far as the unions are concerned, BHP should return to the table and start meaningful negotiations," Barker said.

BHP Illawarra spokesman David McDonald said there had been little progress in talks with unions.

"The union hasn't moved any from there previous position ... and in fact they placed further restrictions on their offer," he said.

"It's beginning to look like that despite our best efforts, and we've tried really hard to stop this, the strike will go ahead."

Published, 13 October, 2000