3000 CQ workers vote yes to BHP Billiton alliance deal

UPDATE: IT WAS a deal that could not even score a two-thirds majority, but coal miners in Central Queensland have begrudgingly accepted a new work agreement.

The two-year industrial relations battle engulfing both BHP Billiton Mitsubishi Alliance and the Construction Forestry Mining and Energy Union has reached an armistice.

So long was the battle that two Central Queensland mines - Norwich Park and Gregory - went from working mines to mothballed sites before it was over.

The 2800 votes in this third ballot on an enterprise agreement between BMA and the CFMEU were cast on Saturday and counted on Monday.

It was the first poll since each side entered Federal Government-assisted mediation and the first with union backing.

BMA president Stephen Dumble did not sound like a victor when he spoke to APN after the counting found the deal had support.

"After this length of time, it is not about winners and losers," Mr Dumble said.

"We've been very measured on this for that very reason.

"It's not about any party wanting to claim victory."

Apart from being an "ongoing distraction" as he described it, the fierce campaign also took a heavy toll on BMA's business.

Industrial action was pinned as the cause for a one million tonne fall in coal production across BMA's five still-operating mines.

"It's been enormously difficult," Mr Dumble said.

"Particularly in recent months when we've seen the impact of rapidly falling prices for our (coal) and this continuing strength in the Australian dollar.

"That and the impact of industrial action had an enormous impact on the profitability of our business."

Mr Dumble would not be drawn on why it took 18 months to enter serious mediation with the CFMEU and its peers the Electrical Trades Union and Australian Manufacturing Workers Union.

He said it was a question for another day.

The CFMEU gave its explanation in a press statement which also marked the end of a shared media blackout between both sides.

In it, district president Stephen Smyth said the deal would have been made a year ago "had BHP not taken an ideological approach that prioritised picking a fight with its workforce over coming to a reasonable deal".

Mr Smyth did however thank the union members for their solidarity during the marathon fight.

"The deal maintains important protections and moderates the most extreme elements of BHP's agenda," he said.

The three year deal expires in late 2015, subject to Fair Work Australia approval.


Dispute by the numbers

  • 3000 - workers covered by new enterprise agreement.
  • 24 - months it took to sign the deal.
  • 5 - number of mines under BMA, including Goonyella-Riverside, Peak Downs, Crinum, Blackwater and Saraji.

What they got

The deal includes:

  • Safety check inspectors covered by agreement.
  • More flexibility in rostering, both for those nearby and those having to commute
  • Housing agreement for those living in nearby towns.
  • Superannuation increase from 9% to 12% for three years.


EARLIER: ALMOST 3000 workers in Central Queensland have voted to accept the latest proposed enterprise agreement from BHP Billiton Mitsubishi Alliance, which includes important protections on safety, housing and rostering and boosts superannuation contributions.

A majority of the 2800 coal mine staff across BMA's five Bowen Basin mines has supported the company's latest offer after a 24-month campaign by the Construction Forestry Mining and Energy Union.

In a ballot conducted on Saturday and counted on Monday, the offer received a 60% "yes" vote.

It was the third time a vote had been held during the often-heated negotiations, but the first since each side entered mediation in July.

It ends more than two years of wrangling between the BMA and the union, including months of media silence.

CFMEU district president Stephen Smyth thanked union members for their solidarity during the dispute in the face of a hardline approach from BHP.

"This deal maintains important protections and moderates the most extreme elements of BHP's agenda," said Mr Smyth.

"It could have been reached a year ago had BHP not taken an ideological approach that prioritised picking a fight with its workforce over coming to a reasonable deal."

The three-year deal includes safety-check inspectors being covered, rostering flexibility, a housing agreement and superannuation conditions.BMA was approached for comment.

Topics:  bhp cfmeu industrial action mitsubishi negotiations

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