BHP takes advantage of gaps in AWA 'abolition'

Australian Workplace Agreements (AWAs) were "abolished" by the Rudd Labor government in February. However, mining giant BHP has taken advantage of "gaps" in the new laws to sign up 46 new employees to a virtually identical Enterprise Workplace Agreement, according to Steve McCartney, WA president of the Australian Manufacturing Workers Union (AMWU).

McCartney said on August 7 that the AMWU will join other WA unions to campaign against the new contract, which he believes BHP wants to extend to its 12,000 employees in WA.

"This new BHP contract is a thinly veiled AWA. At the last election people voted in favour of having a say in the agreement that applies to them. BHP has corralled a small number of new employees, got them to agree to a document, which the company then applies to all its employees for the next five years. Where is the fairness in that?", he asked.

"What the company has done is legal, but it's completely immoral. The legislation must change to prevent this happening again", McCartney said.

Justine Kamprad, an AMWU organiser in WA, told Green Left Weekly on August 12 that WA-based big businesses have often led attacks on working conditions. "Under the former Liberal Court government, WA companies first brought in individual contracts. Now, under a Labor government, they're the first to use the loopholes in the federal legislation to bring in AWAs by the back door. The Rudd government has to be held to account."