Queensland’s mining boom has not come without its controversies, the latest of which will see 3,000 coal miners begin a week-long strike against poor working conditions.
The strike comes as the next step in a dispute between Queensland union members and the BHP-Mitsubishi Alliance (BMA) and is expected to halt work at six of the company’s mines in the state’s Bowen Basin.
The unions have made it clear that they are not striking over wages. Instead, the action centres around working conditions, with 80 per cent of workers rejecting BMA’s latest negotiation offer and an offered payout.
In order to maintain satisfactory conditions, the workers are demanding safety officers who are union members rather than company management, equal pay for contractors, job security and an extra break for workers on 12-hour shifts.
The Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union (CMFEU) says the dispute is not likely to be resolved prior to the strikes.
“Unless BHP come in today and say, ‘well guess what, this last 18 months has been for nothing and we’re pretty well happy to come to terms with most of the claims that are outstanding’ (there will be no quick resolution,)” says CMFEU spokesperson Steve Smyth. “In a perfect world that would be a great result, but as far as the unions and its members are concerned, the strikes will commence tomorrow morning and continue for seven days at this stage.”
The unions remain hopeful that they will still be able to negotiate with BMA, with Smyth stating that any kind of progress will be welcomed.
“The ball is in BHP’s court,” he says. “It is what it is and we’re looking forward to today that there will be something positive come out of it and we can actually start to make some progress.”
BMA is even more focused on finalising negotiations, with a spokeswoman for the alliance stating that the industrial action is ‘harmful’ and ‘unnecessary.’
The strikes will certainly garner a response from BMA, fuelled by the economic loss associated with industrial action, but whether that is a response that meets union demands is yet to be known.