OPERATIONS at seven Central Queensland coal mines will continue despite 3000 mine workers walking off the job this weekend.
Three unions have been locked in tense negotiations with BHP Mitsubishi Alliance for several weeks.
The unions, represented by the Single Bargaining Unit, are negotiating on behalf of workers at Norwich Park, Blackwater and Goonyella BHP operations.
Electrical Trades Union Mackay regional organiser Glenn Hall said the three unions represented more than 3000 workers who were not planning to return to work after their shifts ended this weekend.
Mr Hall said the industrial dispute was over a range of issues, including contracted workers not directly employed by BMA.
He said: “What we have are workers who will not work for a single shift, so at some mines, that is an eight, 10 or 12-hour shift that the workers won't present for.
“This is not about the rise in contract workers, but it is partly about that we have BMA employees working side by side with contracted workers for more than three years.
“What some workers are concerned about is that if someone leaves, the company may put on a contractor, as often contractors are paid lower rates than employees.
“So we are concerned that some employees might be replaced by contractors if they are forced to leave work for some reason.”
Mr Hall said negotiations between the SBU and BMA had been progressing “very slowly”, and the SBU believed this weekend's stop work action could speed up the process.
He said union members were to have stopped work from 6 o'clock last night, on a rolling basis, until next Tuesday.
A spokeswoman from BMA said any impact on production from the seven mines would be released in the company's next quarterly market announcement to the Australian Stock Exchange, due out next month.
She said the company was concerned that the SBU might be threatening negotiations by taking industrial action, and that BMA was taking all efforts to resolve issues, with meetings booked into July.
The spokeswoman said the company had a contract workforce at its disposal, and confirmed that operations at all seven mines would continue.
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