Strikes could cost BMA 130,000t a day

STRIKE action at BHP Billiton Mitsubishi Alliance’s central Queensland coal mines could lead to the company losing 130,000 tonnes of production a day as negotiations over enterprise agreements reach a stalemate.
Strikes could cost BMA 130,000t a day Strikes could cost BMA 130,000t a day Strikes could cost BMA 130,000t a day Strikes could cost BMA 130,000t a day Strikes could cost BMA 130,000t a day

BMA coal preperation plant. Courtesy BHP Billiton Mitsubishi Alliance.

Lou Caruana

Stoppages at three of BMA’s operations continued today and may be extended to a further four mines just as the company seeks to ramp up production after the debilitating effects of the Queensland floods and the price of coking coal approaches record highs.

According to a report by Credit Suisse analyst Melinda Moore, who estimated the 130,000t lost production figure, industrial stoppages could also buoy prices for coking coal.

BMA produces 58Mt of mostly coking coal for export from its Queensland mines.

About 3500 coal miners across seven mines have joined in rolling work stoppages that began in June after they rejected BMA’s initial offer for a new contract.

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 – is not satisfied with BMA offering of a 5% pay rise and $5000 in cash bonuses. Members will vote on the agreement in a ballot at the end of month.

In a pamphlet titled You can’t trust this company, the SBU slams BMA’s offering on project housing, money and rosters in its draft enterprise agreement.

“The SBU opposes the company’s draft enterprise agreement, draft site schedules and draft accommodation agreements,” it said.

“We strongly recommend that members vote it down.”

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,” a 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.”