New BHP steel agreement
By Andrew Hall
WOLLONGONG — A small proportion of the 5000 workers at BHP's Port Kembla steelworks met on November 6 and endorsed a new three-year steel agreement. The agreement "reflects a commitment by the company, employees and steel industry unions to secure a future for the Port Kembla steelworks". It expires in September 2001.
The deal continues a push by BHP to change work practices to "improve business performance" and "challenge tradition where it is at odds with the needs of business" (i.e., profits).
It provides for ongoing reviews to ensure "payment systems which reflect the capacity of the business to pay", while claiming that an "effort will be made" not to lay off workers.
A particularly nasty effect of the agreement is that injured workers will have a specified period of time to retrain or accept an alternative position, if they can, or they are out the door. Receiving a suitable payout is not an option.
The Australian Workers Union, which covers most workers at Port Kembla, has endorsed the agreement, arguing that it encourages the attainment of BHP's goals in a "cooperative" manner.