June 7, 2019
Peak Downs and Saraji coal mines are the latest targets for BHP’s new cut-price workforce employed by its in-house labour hire company, Operations Services.
Workers at Peak Downs have been told that in September, 230 roles will be filled by Operations Services workers to replace jobs filled by contractor HSE Mining.
At Saraji, 130 Operations Services roles will begin next month, replacing services currently supplied by contractors UGL in the washplant and Downer in vehicle maintenance.
The introduction of OS at these sites is a blow to the hundreds of employees of contracting firms who will lose their jobs, said Queensland District President Stephen Smyth.
“Downer was recently told they had a two-year extension on their contract at Saraji, meaning workers have made commitments based on on-going work. Now, they will lose their jobs. They can apply for jobs with Operations Services, but the pay is lower than they are currently receiving under Downer’s union-negotiated EBA. It’s a disgrace.
“If BHP is genuine about bringing work in-house, they should offer jobs to existing labour hire workers and contractors under existing site agreements.”
Operations Services workers have already been deployed at Caval Ridge and Daunia in Queensland and Mt Arthur in NSW, causing division among the workforce.
At Mt Arthur, where BHP has employed no-one under the site agreement for about six years, a team of 48 OS employees has started work. They are on a 7 on 7 off roster and required to stay at a local motel in Muswellbrook during their shift.
The shift pattern is at odds with the 3/2 roster worked at Mt Arthur and is the only arrangement in the Northern District where worker accommodation is provided, to facilitate the use of a non-local workforce. OS workers are paid more than $40,000 a year less than those on the Mt Arthur site agreement.
“This is one of the most divisive issues I’ve ever faced in the workplace,” said Northern District Vice President Jeff Drayton.
“These workers are being taken for a ride. Candidates are told they are going to work at Mt Arthur for BHP and they are excited about that. It’s only well through the process they are told it’s for Operations Services.
“It’s no surprise they are struggling to keep people in these jobs, they are experiencing a lot of turnover and the 48 roles has shrunk to about 30.”
BHP announced the new subsidiary last December. The CFMEU subsequently became aware of two proposed enterprise agreements lodged with the Fair Work Commission involving $1 shelf companies fully owned by BHP.
The ‘Operations Services Production Agreement 2018’ was voted on by 50 employees with 37 in favour. The ‘Operations Services Maintenance Agreement 2018’ was voted on by 16 employees, with 9 in favour. These agreements designed to cover thousands of workers were voted on by a very few, mostly like in the WA iron ore industry.
Both agreements have a national scope and allow for workers to be transferred to any of the company’s operations at any location at any time, including coal and metalliferous mines, allowing the company to avoid paying redundancies when staffing needs change.
Pay rates are $30,000 to $50,000 a year lower than site agreements negotiated by the CFMEU and there are no wage rises under the terms of the two four-year agreements.
The Union is challenging the validity of both agreements in the Fair Work Commission, with hearings scheduled later this month. Operations Services workers are currently being employed on common law contracts.
General President Tony Maher said the Union would use all possible avenues fight the ‘Jetstar’ model that sees coalminers working side by side for vastly different rates of pay and conditions.
“It’s unacceptable that BHP is replacing a dodgy casual labour hire model with a cut-price Jetstar model. It’s just another way of siphoning money out of workers’ pay packets back into company profits. All workers doing the same work in a coal mine should be getting the same pay and conditions and we encourage all workers to join the Union and support this fight.”