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BHP global network stands strong together

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4 June, 2021One of the world’s largest mining companies consistently refuses to engage with the union, making IndustriALL’s global BHP network an important platform for action and solidarity.

Igor Diaz from Sintracarbón reported on the month-long unrest in Colombia as well as the recent temporary suspension of over 9,000 contracts.

In late May the company temporarily suspended the contracts of the entire workforce. The move came after some 225 workers made redundant as a consequence of unilaterally-imposed shift changes occupied the rail tracks preventing the transport of coal to the port. Rather than engaging in dialogue with dismissed workers about their legitimate grievances, the company invoked force majeure and temporarily suspended over 9,000 workers. The protesting workers have since lifted the blockade and are in discussions with the company with the support of Sintracarbon

“Many have been injured and died from the violence inflicted by the state and many women have been raped. But we dream about a new country and your solidarity and support for both the Colombian people and the workers fighting for their rights at BHP is important.”

BHP is struggling to live up to its gender policy. At Cerrejón for example, women make up less than ten per cent of the workforce, are overrepresented in the number of dismissed workers, as they are first in line when it comes to retrenchments. In Australia, there are reports of sexual assaults at some Australian coal mines, as well as dismissals of women who raised ethics points on sexual harassment in the workplace.

“A global player of BHP’s size cannot be allowed to get away with such blatant gender violation and ignorance of its own ethics policy, gender and diversity 2025 commitment to achieving 50 per cent gender balance at the higher echelons (board and executive) of its operations,”

said Glen Mpufane.

Stephen Smyth, District President, CFMEU Mining and Energy, Queensland, reported on their fight – and win - with BHP over the company’s contracting out company, Operations Services. Together with AWU, the unions managed to get BHP’s agreement with non-union labour thrown out by the fair work commission.

CFMEU’s central collective agreement at BHP operations in Australia that covers 2,500-3,000 workers is expiring in June and the CFMEU considers the upcoming CBA negotiations as crucial. As the agreement expires in June, the upcoming negotiations are important, says Stephen Smyth, the President of CFMEU – Queensland,   Health and Safety, Automation and gender equality will be key considerations in the negotiations.

“The new agreement will be a template when it comes to automation. Automation has already resulted in a 20 per cent reduction of activity and BHP will be trying to play hardball.”

Marcelo Franco, president of the workers’ union at BHP’s Cerro Colorado mine in Chile and head of the Coordinating Committee bringing together six BHP unions calls 2021 the year of collective bargaining at BHP in Chile; The workers union at Spence recently voted in support of strike action, as did workers at the control center in Santiago where some 220 workers control operations at the BHP mines located 1,400 km away in the North of the country.

Unions reported on the unsatisfactory response of BHP to the COVID19 pandemic. BHP has for example laid of 320 workers claiming that these workers suffered from pathologies but later rehired 160 of these workers without due and fair process.

The country’s Supreme Court decision to uphold a local indigenous communities’ complaint about BHP’s violation of its water license, has put BHP’s Cerro Colorado operations into doubt. The union has called on BHP to respect the country’s environmental laws as its disregard places jobs and community livelihoods at risk.  

IndustriALL assistant general secretary Kemal Özkan underlined the importance of global solidarity and support:

“The mining industry is globally facing transformative challenges. Mining houses, particularly BHP, must genuinely engage with unions for a Just Transition. IndustriALL’s BHP Global Union Network has built unity, power and solidarity through its actions and company management must listen and respond to this strong voice.”