MAC/20: Mines and Communities

ICEM Condemns Tactics in Australia Coal Talks

Published by MAC on 2011-07-04
Source: statement, Reuters

ICEM Condemns Tactics of BHP Billiton, Mitsubishi in Australia Coal Talks

24 June 2011

ICEM News release

Australia - The International Federation of Chemical, Energy, Mine & General Workers' Unions (ICEM) today condemned the bad-faith bargaining strategy of BHP Billiton-Mitsubishi Alliance (BMA) in coal talks in Australia. At the same time, it pledged full support to Queensland miners, who today commence a second justified set at industrial actions inside BMA's rich coking-coal mines of Queensland's Bowen Basin.

The Geneva-based ICEM, representing 20 million workers globally, condemns BMA for side-stepping the Single Bargaining Unit (SBU) of 4,000 workers and attempting to justify its regressive workplace demands in the public arena.

Three unions affiliated with the ICEM - Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union (CFMEU), the Australian Manufacturing Workers' Union (AMWU), and the Communications, Electrical, Plumbing Union (CEPU) - are legitimately enjoined as the SBU, but have seen BMA reject honest dialogue on major issues such as work rights, salaries, and social benefits for subcontract workers, and job security for Australian workers employed by BMA and legitimately represented by the three unions.

BMA instead has flaunted its unwanted agenda in paid advertisements and shameless pay boasting in central and eastern Queensland. Because of this, the ICEM fully and unequivocally supports the 24 June second round of strike actions at BMA's seven mines and alerts miners and other workers of BMA that they have a firm global ally in the ICEM with their three unions.

In a 22 June letter to leaders of the three unions, ICEM General Secretary Warda said: "As miners and others in Queensland at BMA begin a second round of industrial actions this weekend, please extend to each and every one of them the principled Support and Solidarity of the ICEM and its family of 467 trade unions throughout the world. Let them know that the eyes of the global trade union movement are on their courageous fight to get a just and deserved enterprise labour agreement with BMA." See the full ICEM letter here.

The ICEM stands solidly behind BMA workers who begin lawful 12-hour rolling strikes tonight at BMA's Blackwater mine, and then Saturday and Sunday nights, 25-26 June, at Saraji, Norwich Park, Gregory Crinum, Peak Downs, and Goonyella Riverside mines. And the ICEM condemns the attack on the strike by BMA, as if it was illegitimate. It is not.

The ICEM believes BMA's tactics reflect poorly on the joint venture's equal parents - BHP Billiton and Mitsubishi - and on BMA's standing in metallurgical coal markets. Following the breakdown of talks on 20-21 June, the ICEM will monitor this dispute and stands ready in the event it escalates.

For further information, contact ICEM at +1 41 22 304 1840 (mobile +41 79 734 8994).

This ICEM release is also available on the ICEM Web-site (

BMA coal mine labour unrest likely to continue - Unions


4 July 2011

SYDNEY - Rolling industrial action at Australian coal mines jointly owned by BHP Billiton and Mitsubishi Corp could continue through next week as members press for job security and training, the main union at the mines said on Monday.

The last in a campaign of 12-hour work stoppages at the mines is set for Wednesday ahead of meetings with BHP Billiton next Monday and Tuesday, Steve Smyth, Queensland president of the Construction Forestry Mining and Energy Union (CFMEU), told Reuters.

"If those meetings do not produce results, we are prepared to continue our actions, Smyth said.

The targeted mines have a combined production capacity of more than 58 million tonnes per year of metallurgical coal used to make steel and account for about a fifth of the global trade. Smyth said he was unable to calculate the impact on production from the union's actions.

Analysts have estimated the impact on production could be between 500,000 tonnes and 1 million tonnes.

Uncertainty over production of metallurgical coal in Australia is propping up world prices, which at $315 a tonne, are only $15 below the last quarter's record $330.

Coal miners in Queensland state, the main source of Australian metallurgical coal, are scheduled to report production for the April 1-June 30 quarter this month.

Last quarter's production figures are expected to show significant year-on-year drops due to heavy flooding and rail damage earlier in 2011 and to a lesser extent labour unrest at the BHP-Mitsubishi mines.

Union workers at six Australian coal mines operated by BHP Billiton-Mitsubishi Alliance are protesting over a lack of job training and concerns of rising non-union staff jobs.

Roughly 3,500 of the mines' workers belong to unions out of a total workforce of around 10,000.

BHP Billiton, the operator of the mines, has declined to make public any impact the actions may be having on production, saying the performance of the mines will be contained in its next company-wide production report July 20.

Australia has already revised down its official forecast for total metallurgical coal exports this year due to an unseasonally long wet season that flooded out many of the nation's coal mines. The Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics and Sciences recently revised down its export forecast in the coming year by 5 percent, citing ongoing disruptions caused by floods despite an end to the rains in March.

Smyth said union workers were not at a stage whether they would consider escalating their actions.

"What we are doing is all about getting down to business with BHP," Smyth said. (Reporting by James Regan; Editing by Ed Davies)

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