BMA and the unions have been locked in an acrimonious industrial dispute over the EAs for more than 18 months but have eventually come together under pressure from Kelty and federal Employment and Workplace Relations Minister Bill Shorten, who is keen to avert any further loss of valuable coking coal exports from BMA’s six central Queensland mines.
Led by the powerful Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union, the unions are believed to have been swayed by assurances from BMA that it will not seek to implement 14-hour shifts, while the unions have acknowledged management’s role in maintaining safety at its operations.
The overall framework agreement is holding for now but its real test will come this week when management seeks to extract productivity improvements from its six mines to offset negotiated pay increases and bonuses which exceed the consumer price index.
BHP Billiton is also under pressure to contain costs at its operations during a period of lower commodity prices and as shareholders demand greater returns.
The company and unions issued a low key joint statement, referring to Kelty’s contribution.
“BMA and the unions agreed to a framework agreement that will guide the finalisation of the BMA enterprise agreement,” they said.
“Further work is required to finalise local minesite details.
“The minister for employment and workplace relations has offered the support of Fair Work Australia to assist in these final discussions.
“All parties are continuing to work in good faith to complete an agreement as soon as possible.”
The BMA mines affected are Blackwater, Crinum, Goonyella Riverside, Gregory, Peak Downs and Saraji, while its Broadmeadow mine falls under a different workplace agreement.
BMA put its Norwich Park on care and maintenance earlier this year because it claimed rising costs and escalating industrial action over the EAs made it uneconomic.