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BHP faces more industrial action at coal mines

June 27, 2011

“BHP Billiton Ltd. is facing a third round of industrial action in Australia this week at its coking coal mines, further disrupting output from the world’s largest exporter of the steelmaking material.

Workers at seven mining sites owned by BHP Billiton Mitsubishi Alliance in Queensland state’s Bowen Basin won’t do any “non-rostered” overtime on June 30 and July 1, Stephen Smyth, a division president at the Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union in Queensland, said by telephone today.

Coal mine workers began their second round of strikes on June 24 and they’ll finish on June 29, said Smyth. BHP has been notified about the latest plan and further strikes are possible next week, he said.”

Source: Bloomberg, June 27 2011

Observations:

  • Over 3,000 workers at the BMA coal mines are campaigning for better contract rights for contracted workers and to retain the union’s power in recruiting decisions.
  • BMA is using a contract workforce to minimize loss of production caused by the strikes. Lost production could be up to 130Kt per day, or just over an average ship of export capacity.

Implications:

  • Negotiations are progressing slowly, and will continue to do so as long as production continues. If the unionized staff manages to convince the contract workers (roughly 50% of personnel) to lay down the work the pressure on BMA management would increase.
  • Various other miners in similar situations have shut down operations, fired the staff, and rehired the loyal staff members on own terms. BHP certainly will try to prevent this situation, as it would hurt the company’s reputation as a top employer.

©2011 | Wilfred Visser | thebusinessofmining.com

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