BHP uses thinly veiled threat to regional jobs in attempt to undermine EBA negotiations, ETU says

BHP has paid out record profits for shareholders in latest Half Yearly Report, yet claims coal royalty hikes from the state government will undermine its ability to deliver jobs for ETU members.

In a letter addressed to ETU State Secretary Peter Ong, BHP has sought union support to oppose the royalty hikes, which it claims could affect ongoing employment of ETU members.

ETU Coal Organiser Craig Thomas has been involved with ongoing Enterprise Bargaining Agreement (EBA) negotiations with BHP, and attended meetings in Brisbane on Monday and Tuesday this week, 27 and 28 June.

“The royalties were brought up briefly by the Company in the meetings earlier this week,” says Mr Thomas, but it was not a part of the negotiations.

The letter addressed to State Secretary Peter Ong, which makes mention of the ongoing negotiations, was sent to the union the following day, Wednesday 29 June.

“BHP is attempting to leverage our negotiations by going to media before entering into any consultation with the union,” says Peter Ong. “I haven’t spoken to anyone at the company, and instead of picking up the phone, they’ve gone to the media. The letter was a thinly veiled threat in an attempt to hinder EBA negotiations.

“I find it incredibly ironic that BHP is framing this call for our support around job security for our members when they created an essential labour hire company which they call BHP Operations Services to employ workers alongside their workforce to undermine the agreement.

“This isn’t about workers or job security, it’s about profits. Their own Half Yearly Report states that they paid record dividends of $7.6 billion US, yet their current agreement contains a 2% per year wage increase for workers. That agreement took 53 meetings and over two years to negotiate. The current negotiations have been going on for 15 months, and this week is the first time we have seen any movement from BHP,” says Mr Ong.

The new coal royalties have been determined based on the significantly increased price companies are selling it for. Where previously, the top tier prices were trading at $150 per tonne, coal is now trading at over $500 per tonne. The progressive royalties will peak at 40% for coal trading at over $300 per tonne.

“The royalties will total $1.2 billion over four years shared across the entire industry. With BHP reporting record profits and Glencore expecting a profit of over $4.6 billion in six months, this tax is a drop in the ocean for these huge companies,” says Peter Ong.

“This industry is making huge profits from selling coal to overseas countries, and all Australians are getting from them is some poorly paid jobs for workers. It’s the workers who lose every time.”

BHP Coal directly employs around just 25% of its workforce at operations in Goonyella, Peak Downs, Saraji and Blackwater Mines. The remaining workers are employed through contracts, labour hire, and BHP Operations Services (OS). The ETU has a current campaign to stamp out labour hire companies that undermine enterprise agreements.


For more information, please call Peter Ong on 0419 721 046 or Kristin Perissinotto on 0448 633 858.