BHP Billiton has asked workers to accept a pay freeze.
BHP Billiton has asked workers to accept a pay freeze. agnormark

Union predicts more strikes over pay freeze, negotiations

EXPECT more coal miners to strike across the Bowen Basin as mining companies push for "callous" changes through Enterprise Bargaining Agreements, the CFMEU's Stephen Smyth has warned.

The Australian Financial Review reported that BHP Billiton asked workers at its Peak Downs, Saraji and Goonyella operations to accept a three-year pay freeze as part of new enterprise agreements.

But the Mackay district union president Mr Smyth said these negotiations were a long way from being finalised, and said he was "surprised" to see the request reported yesterday.

He said BHP Billiton put the pay-freeze idea to the CFMEU in an email on Monday, but the two parties were yet to sit down and discuss the idea.

Mr Smyth said that would happen in Moranbah on September 29.

And he believed other proposed changes to conditions were far more concerning, as they would chip away at job security.

For example, he claimed the company wanted reduce the capacity of some workers to enter into dispute resolution procedures.

He also said BHP Billiton wanted to double the cost of worker accommodation, from $60 up to $120 a week. It has been pointed out the rate would still be cheaper than accommodation that was not subsidised. "We tend to use the current agreement as a starting point. But they've gone and moved the goal posts so far back that it doesn't reflect the current agreement at all," Mr Smyth said. BHP Billiton did not wish to comment.

Mr Smyth said it wasn't the only company involved in lengthy negotiations over Enterprise Bargaining Agreements.

At Rio Tinto's Hail Creek mine EA negotiations have dragged on for two and a half years, and at Anglo American's Callide mine the EA has also lapsed.

Other sites were cited by Mr Smyth but those companies were unable to confirm before this paper went to print. Mr Smyth believed if companies were not willing to be forthcoming with better conditions, they would follow the example of Anglo American's German Creek workers that have been on strike since August 22.