Dodgy BHP agreement will drive down coal wages

Published: 3 May 2019

New work agreements secretly developed by giant coal multinational BHP are set to drive down wages across Queensland’s coal industry, the CFMEU said today.

BHP has started employing workers on lesser pay and conditions than current permanent workers at its Caval Ridge and Daunia mines through subsidiary Operations Services, creating a cut-price labour hire workforce in-house.

Over time, BHP’s plan is to transition its central Queensland coal workforce off existing union-negotiated site agreements and on to Operations Services agreements that pay about $30,000 a year less, said CFMEU Mining and Energy Queensland President Stephen Smyth.

“BHP’s plan with Operations Services is to set a new standard for Queensland coal workers. Unfortunately, it’s a much lower standard that rips workers off and leaves them without basic protections like accident pay.

“We urgently need ‘same job same pay’ laws that prevent multinationals like BHP from entrenching a second class workforce at their coal mines.”

The CFMEU is challenging the validity of two new enterprise agreements lodged with the Fair Work Commission involving $1 shelf companies fully owned by BHP.

The agreements are:

  • Operations Services Maintenance Agreement 2018
  • Operations Services Production Agreement 2018

The agreements were voted up by a small number of workers in Western Australia in 2018 and are now being applied to coal mines in Queensland and NSW.

As well as paying about $30,000 a year less than current BHP agreements for Bowen Basin coal mines, the agreements allow for workers to be transferred to any of the company’s coal or metalliferous mining operations around Australia at any location at any time. They offer no accident pay and leave workers worse off in terms of leave and redundancy entitlements. 

BHP is actively promoting the new Operations Services jobs but has overlooked current casual labour hire workers at Caval Ridge and Daunia during recruitment, said Mr Smyth.

“It’s a slap in the face for casual labour hire workers who have given BHP their loyalty for years, but don’t get a look in when new jobs become available.

“Their whole approach to setting up Operations Services is shameful. BHP should be creating permanent, local jobs on the pay and conditions that have been negotiated fair and square by current workforces – and giving labour hire workers a go.

“Coal mining is a difficult and dangerous job and coal mineworkers deserve well-paid, secure jobs without the mining companies coming up with new tricks to rip them off.

“I was disturbed to hear that Capricornia MP Michelle Landry hasn’t heard about the BHP Operations Services rip-off happening in her patch.

“We need stronger laws to protect workers and political representatives who will stand up to the coal multinationals, not just do their bidding.”