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Issue #1672      February 11, 2015

BHP’s slap in the face for Queensland workers

Queensland workers will be banned from a Central Queensland coal mine BHP shut three years ago as the mining giant seeks to import cheaper workers from interstate, the miners union says.

The Mining Division of the CFMEU has obtained an internal briefing paper prepared by a mining industry contractor outlining the terms under which the BHP Mitsubishi Alliance (BMA) is seeking to operate the Norwich Park mine near Dysart.

It states: “BMA has strongly indicated that success of the project will be dependent on being able to operate the mine efficiently while using labour that is paid significantly less than is currently the case at surrounding existing operations. A strong desire has been expressed that labour should be sourced from lower paying areas outside of Queensland (Adelaide, Melbourne for example). They are likely to try and leverage off the labour model used at Norwich Park to generate lower cost labour models at their other operations.”

The paper suggests BHP intends to restart production in the mine in July, three years after it shut in May 2012, and use the lower wages at Norwich Park to drive wage-cutting at other operations.

CFMEU Mining and Energy general secretary Andrew Vickers said it was clear BHP had closed Norwich Park as part of an industrial strategy to slash wages and deny jobs to local Queensland workers.

“Four hundred skilled Queensland mineworkers were put out of work when BHP closed Norwich Park in 2012,” said Mr Vickers.

“Now it appears that Queenslanders from Dysart or Moranbah or Mackay will have to relocate to Melbourne or Adelaide if they want to work at a local coal mine.

“It’s no coincidence that BHP is now planning to reopen the mine exactly three years after closing it, to avoid legal requirements to hire back the local workers it ruthlessly dumped.

“This was always their plan. BHP is playing Queenslanders for fools – denying them the jobs and royalties they deserve from Queensland resources.

“Labor and the LNP must condemn this ruthless behaviour from BHP and demand the company stop discriminating against locals being employed in coal mines on their doorsteps.”

BHP’s Queensland coal mines are profitable and efficient operations and can afford to provide good, permanent jobs to local workers, said Mr Vickers.

Background:

  • There were 340 workers employed at Norwich Park when the mine closed in May 2012
  • The workers were given just days to decide their futures
  • The mine had been operating for 32 years
  • There was a strong market and good coal reserves at Norwich Park
  • The mine was operating when coal was $70/tonne and when it closed coal was $200/tonne
  • A five-year plan for Norwich Park was leaked in May 2012 which indicated BHP would reopen with a new workforce
  • The closure of Norwich Park mine was a major blow to the nearby town of Dysart.

Next article – Excluding unions – Anti-union wave coming Part 3

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