The following text message was sent to miners’ wives and family members on May 20, according to union sources:
“Voting in the protected action is voluntary. Your right to vote (or not vote) is protected by law – BMA”
This message was even received by wives of union members working at BMA mines and the Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union quickly responded with a letter citing privacy laws and requesting an apology.
BMA subsequently addressed the matter in a group-wide bulletin.
“Last week, incorrect information was being circulated regarding the rights of employees with respect to the protected action ballot,” the company said.
“BMA sent a text message to employees to correct that misinformation.
“Unfortunately, some text messages were sent to employees’ emergency
contacts (eg. family members of employees). This was not BMA’s intention.”
BMA said it was taking steps to ensure it would not happen again when communicating with employees.
“We apologise sincerely and unreservedly for this error and for any concern that our oversight has created.”
CFMEU Queensland district president Stephen Smyth views the text messages as a tactic to influence miners from not voting in the ballot.
Smyth expects an outcome of the vote to be known on Friday.
Should the workforce agree to take protected industrial action, there will be a 30 day period allowing miners to start rolling stoppages of various durations, plus implement overtime bans.
Ongoing negotiations over the new BMA central enterprise agreement started around November/December and this encompassing EA expired on May 16.
The EA covers the Blackwater mine and six other mines in Central Queensland, including the open cut operations of Peak Downs, Saraji and Gregory, along with the Crinum East longwall mine.
Smyth said it would be up to the members at each mine to decide what type of industrial action to take.
Unlike other disputes over EAs in the mining industry, the CFMEU has teamed up with the Electrical Trades Union and Australian Manufacturing Workers' Union to form a Single Bargaining Unit with BMA over the central agreement.
Smyth said this collective approach prevented possible attempts by BMA to “drive a wedge” into the EA negotiations, such as offering extra money for an agreement for workers represented by the ETU.