BHP tries to revive dead and buried OS workplace deals

Published: 9 Dec 2020

A survey of mineworkers employed by BHP’s in-house labour hire provider has found that only 4% are satisfied that their wages and conditions stack up with Queensland coal industry standards – as the mining giant tries to lock in their substandard conditions.

CFMEU Mining and Energy Queensland President Stephen Smyth said the survey results should send a clear message to BHP that it’s time to negotiate a better deal with their Operations Services (OS) Queensland coal workforce. 

Yesterday, BHP provided Operations Services workers with copies of Enterprise Agreements containing the same substandard agreements as those recently ruled invalid by the Fair Work Commission.

The move shows BHP is refusing to listen to its workforce and not affording them the right to have a say in enterprise bargaining, said Mr Smyth.

Operations Services is the fully-owned subsidiary BHP is using to provide cheaper labour to its own mines, with over 3,000 workers now deployed through OS across its Bowen Basin coal mines.

The Fair Work Commission recently ruled that two Enterprise Agreements covering OS workers were not valid because they were not genuinely agreed to by workers. The Agreements were voted on by a small number of iron ore miners in the Pilbara.

OS workers are employed on contracts with the same conditions as the scratched EAs, with up to $50,000 a year less pay than permanent BHP employees and no scheduled annual pay rises or guaranteed bonus scheme. Unlike direct BHP employees, OS workers can be forced to work Christmas Day and moved to any BHP site in Australia at the company’s discretion.

Mr Smyth said the Union was pushing to get BHP to the bargaining table to improve conditions for OS workers, who are demoralised by their treatment.

Of 492 Queensland-based OS workers who completed a survey by the Union, 92% said their wages and conditions were not competitive and need improvement, another 4% were unsure. Just 4% indicated they were satisfied.

The top areas of concern workers identified were:

  • PAY (wages, shift penalties, public holiday and overtime rates) - 96%
  • UNPAID OVERTIME (start and finish times requiring free work outside rostered hours) - 69%
  • BREAKS (not getting crib breaks in the specified 5 hour period) - 35%

Concerningly, one in three respondents (32%) to the survey reported that they were not confident about raising safety issues without fear of being targeted.

Mr Smyth said CFMEU Mining and Energy would continue to challenge BHP’s approach and push them to commence bargaining from scratch rather than revive the old agreements.

“BHP is trying every trick in the book to avoid giving OS workers the dignity of having a genuine say in their working conditions through bargaining, like other BHP workers.

“OS workers are given nice BHP shirts and told they are part of the family, but they are being treated like the poor cousins.

“Operations Services workers tell us over and again they are unhappy with their treatment: they can’t raise issues, their travel arrangements are difficult and expensive, their training is substandard and their pay is far below industry standards.

“BHP must stop the dirty tricks and start genuine bargaining.”


I am a fitter but in OS I’m also a travel agent, training coordinator etc, never had that before in FIFO. I have to pay for my own tools even though it was made clear in the interview and frequently asked questions that all tooling was to be provided.”

“We are not permitted to voice any issues at prestart. Only positive feedback. I was shot down when I raised my concerns on this.”

“10 months into job, no one can tell us how exactly how much bonus we get. Should not be the case when it is put into your package.”

“FIFO employees from Townsville catch a Qantas charter flight. BMA and other labour hire employees pay $120 return. OS employees pay $385 and have to take annual leave to get on the flight that leaves after Wednesday day shift.”

“Flights from Brisbane are an issue, supervisors/management and office staff all have their flights chartered and covered by BHP. Production workers like myself catch the same flight but the cost comes out of our post tax salary.”

“Our contract sucks - being paid 30k less than BMA workers doing the same job on the same site. Having to pay for your own flights, when supers have them paid.”

“It says in our contracts all tooling is supplied. It has not been supplied and needs to be supplied or a tool allowance needs to be implemented into salary."

"Employees are forced to use buses instead of driving to and from site but are not compensated for the extra hour a day we are waiting or on buses.”

“I have brought up safety and they then took away the promise of upskilling, the course which I was told I was doing. I am out of pocket financially due to having to rebook over-priced charter flights twice due to this.”

“Christmas and Boxing Day (we are) expected to work while all other workers on site at BMA including labour hire and contractors have the right to take the time off or be paid penalty rates for working.”

“People are way too scared to speak up. It’s push, push, push, production, production, production all the time.”