Thousands of BHP coal miners walk off the job
Thousands of BHP coal miners in central Queensland started a seven-day strike today, seeking changes to work conditions.
BHP Billiton said it remains willing to resume negotiations with its coal miners, and the mine workers union, the CFMEU, also said its door is open for further talks.
An official with the CFMEU said between 3500 and 4000 miners are involved in the industrial action, but BHP is expected to seek to continue some production by using staff or contract labour.
BHP has offered a 5 per cent annual wage rise over three years along with a $15,000 a year production bonus, although it is believed the sticking point is a range of proposed changes to work practices.
The mines where production is affected are the seven BMA joint venture mines of Norwich Park, Saraji, Peak Downs, Blackwater, Gregory Crinum, Blackwater and Goonyella.
"Our position is that if the [strike] action continues, we will be very disappointed," a BHP Billiton spokesman said. "We remain committed to resuming negotiations."
BHP Billiton has been engaged in an ongoing dispute with miners at its BMA joint venture in central Queensland since late 2010, with little prospect of a resolution any time soon.
The mine workers union, the CFMEU, also said its doors were open for further talks.
"We've made ourselves available for discussions with BHP, but we've had no response to our offer," a CFMEU official in Queensland told BusinessDay. "There are still a number of issues remaining to be resolved."
BHP Billiton has already raised the spectre of closing some of the higher cost mines at the BMA joint venture between BHP Billiton and Japanese trading house Mitsubishi Corporation, in central Queensland, insisting that as mine owners it should have the right to run the business as it sees fit.
The strike action in Queensland comes as the CFMEU is engaged in a separate round of industrial action at Port Kembla's coal loader, with the loader out of action in the first week of February and with a further 48-hour strike called earlier this week.