Queensland coalminers will strike for a week from February 15 to step up the longstanding dispute with BHP Billiton over safety, wages and conditions.
The company's seven coal mines in Queensland will be closed down after 15 months of negotiations broke down between the Construction Forestry Mining Energy Union (CFMEU) and management.
The BHP Mitsubishi Alliance (BMA) operates the mines. It is likely to lose up to 1 million tonnes in forgone or deferred production. The value of the coal production lost will total $200-300 million.
The union's action follows the announcement by BHP Billiton on February 8 of a $9.3 billion profit for the six months to December 31 last year.
CFMEU district president for the Bowen Basin region Stephen Smyth said: “The coal division profits have blown away claims that any industrial action could risk the viability of its mines and merely underlines the arrogance of management's refusal to listen to its own workforce.
“Ever since employees overwhelmingly rejected BHP's proposed agreement, management have trotted out the usual excuses that the company couldn't possibly afford to address workers' concerns.”
The union wants a third break for workers on 12-hour shifts and opposes the replacement of union-certified safety officers with management appointees.
Smyth said on February 10 that “workers here feel they've no choice but to ramp up industrial action”.
“BHP is making enormous profits out of its coking coal operations in central Queensland, but it doesn't want to listen to its workforce.”
BMA has offered a 15% pay rise over three years. However, the union is refusing to negotiate on pay until demands for crib breaks and safety officers are met.