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Australian unions committed to campaign against BHP

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5 July, 2019In response to BHP’s strategy to drive down wages and conditions of employment in the mining industry, IndustriALL Global Union’s Australian affiliates confirmed their full commitment and support to the campaign against the world’s largest miner.

The commitment was made in a strategic campaign meeting organized by IndustriALL in Sydney, Australia on June 14, 2019 with the participation of representatives from CFMEU Mining & Energy Division, Australian Workers' Union (AWU) and Electrical Trades Union of Australia. The meeting also welcomed participants from the Maritime Union of Australia and International Transport Workers’ Federation.

BHP is the world’s largest miner based on market capitalization, valued at just under US $100 billion. In Australia, BHP predominantly operates in two States – Queensland (coal mining) and Western Australia (iron ore). BHP’s iron ore operations are largely non-union as a result of a de-unionization strategy implemented in the late 1990s. Coal mining is still substantially unionized, but density and conditions are threatened by BHP’s “island” strategy.

“Here in Australia, BHP has been a leader in aggressive employment strategies to drive down wages and conditions, including replacing thousands of permanent jobs with casual labour hire. BHP’s latest strategy is to create an ‘in-house’ labour hire workforce through a subsidiary, providing a supply of cheaper workers on non-union contracts across its business,”

said Tony Maher, general president of meeting host CFMEU Mining & Energy Division.

One aspect of BHP’s island strategy involved the opening of two mines in Queensland with a 100 per cent “Fly In, Fly Out” workforce. Another aspect has been the excessive use of labour hire. BHP created, in mid-2018, two companies to act as employing entities to establish a second class labour hire workforce, essentially in-housing labour hire, under the name Operations Services.

All the agreements of BHP are designed to apply to all the company’s mining operations across Australia and they offer significantly lower wages and conditions than existing BHP collective agreements for coal mining.

 Kemal Özkan, assistant general secretary of IndustriALL, presented the global profile of BHP with the results of the survey conducted with the global union network members. Australian unions analysed and discussed labour relations and current Issues at BHP operations and supply chain in Australia, including BHP’s internal labour hire strategy.

The meeting ended with BHP’s leverage profile as well as global campaign plans.

Daniel Walton, national secretary of the AWU commented:

“BHP workers across the world deserve their fair share of the miner's record profits. The AWU is proud to be involved in the IndustriALL BHP global campaign that is intent on securing decent pay and conditions for all BHP workers.”

Tony Maher said:

“We were pleased to host a constructive meeting in Sydney with Australia’s IndustriALL affiliates representing BHP coal and iron ore mineworkers, train drivers, tradespeople and seafarers.”

Kemal Özkan said at the end of the meeting:

“As in other parts of the world, in Australia there are consistent stories of workers under pressure as BHP ruthlessly prioritizes profits at the expense of workers and communities.

“Through our global campaign, we fight back for safer and fairer labour practices throughout the worldwide operations of BHP.”