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Northern Mining & NSW Energy

NSW South Western




Western Australia

Job fears as autonomous trucks roll in

November 19, 2019

BHP has announced it will introduce 86 autonomous haul trucks to its Goonyella Riverside coal mine in the Bowen Basin in the first major deployment of automated trucks in the coal industry.

While workers were aware a trial was planned, BHP’s announcement shows it is skipping the trial and going straight to full implementation.

Queensland District President Stephen Smyth said the Union was very concerned BHP’s approach was sidelining workers and would lead to hundreds of jobs being cut. After taking the workforce by surprise with its announcement, the company is now holding consultation sessions – but no more than it is required to under EA commitments.

While BHP has tried to downplay the number of jobs affected, initial figures suggest that at least 300 operator jobs will be lost.

“BHP is being cute in its wording,” said Mr Smyth. “They say no permanent jobs will be lost, but they are going after labour hire contractors. Many of these labour hire workers have been on BHP sites for years, they live locally and have families to feed. A job is a job and all jobs are worth fighting for.”

Isaac Mayor Anne Baker said she was ‘flabbergasted’ by the scale of the announcement and lack of detail provided.

“Where is the detail? Its impacts and how the company intends to manage them need to be communicated to this community.

“Community in their own right will demand to know and understand – what will the impact be? How will individuals be affected?” Mayor Baker said she would be demanding an impact statement from BHP be presented to Council.

At the same time as cutting jobs through automation, BHP is actively promoting its new Operations Services labour hire subsidiary which employs people on lower pay and conditions.

“People have a right to be worried about what the future holds,” said Stephen Smyth.

“It sends a chilling message to workers that BHP is moving to automation at the same time it was pushing jobs to its new in-house labour hire subsidiary Operations Services with lower wages.

“This industry must do more than just generate ever-bigger shareholder dividends and executive bonuses. If workers and communities don’t benefit from mining, why would they support it?”

Whitehaven Coal has been trialling a small autonomous fleet at its Maules Creek mine in NSW, while autonomous trucks and automated rail are widely used in iron ore operations in Western Australia.

What has BHP announced?

  • Autonomous fleet of up to 86 Komatsu trucks over the next two years.
  • First autonomous haul trucks expected to be operational in approximately mid 2020.
  • Reduced need for truck operator roles.
  • Labour hire contractors will be informed about the impact on jobs.
  • Up to 84 new jobs that are mostly staff roles:
    • 60 new Field Officer and Controller roles (staff roles)
    • ‘Up to’ 24 service technician roles (EA roles).

What is the Union calling for?

The CFMEU is urging political leaders to develop policies that manage the impact of automation on communities before hundreds, even thousands, of jobs are lost. We are calling for:

  • Mining companies to be required to develop economic impact studies to assess the effect on regional communities of any loss of jobs due to automation
  • Where automation does lead to a loss of local jobs, additional royalties should be collected and provided to the local communities
  • Mining companies can make no forced redundancies of any workers who will be disadvantaged by the decision
  • All automated operations should occur on-site and not at an off-site operation centre
  • The diesel rebate is removed for companies who decide to automate machinery, plant or equipment that is normally operated by a skilled miner/ operator.
  • Mining companies are to provide apprenticeships and traineeships of equivalent numbers and classifications elsewhere within the business.

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