Qld miners strike for safe work conditions

About 4000 unionists at six coal mines in Central Queensland have struck for a week from May 24 after enterprise bargaining talks with employers BHP Billiton and Mitsubishi again broke down. The 18-month-long dispute between the Construction Forestry Mining Energy Union (CFMEU) and mineowners the BHP-Billiton Mitsubishi Alliance (BMA) centres on a push by the company to replace union-appointed mine safety officers with management officials.

BMA has threatened to withdraw its offer of 15% pay rises over three years plus a bonus of $15,000 if the dispute continues. The union has described this as irrelevant, said the May 22 Courier Mail.

“We haven't even started talking about money," CFMEU district president Stephen Smyth told the paper. "We will negotiate pay when we get to it.”

Smyth said the union would not back down, and the strike was meant to pressure BHP to return to the negotiating table. Control of mine safety was still the key issue at this stage, he said.

BMA is losing hundreds of millions of dollars in reduced coal production from the dispute, while the Queensland state government has foregone at least $50 million in royalties. This has prompted deputy premier Jeff Seeney to warn the government might intervene to push Fair Work Australia to order an arbitrated settlement.

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