BHP wage deals scrapped as unions win Fair Work fight

Mining giant BHP has lost a legal fight with trade unions over the pay and conditions affecting thousands of workers after the industrial umpire ruled two wage deals were not struck lawfully.

The Fair Work Commission’s full bench has quashed two 2018 agreements spanning BHP’s new “operations services” subsidiaries, which has moved thousands of contract and casual jobs from outsourced labour-hire arrangements to permanent in-house positions.

The case affects the way BHP employs workers on its Australian mines.
The case affects the way BHP employs workers on its Australian mines.Credit:Glenn Hunt

The miner has spent months trying to quell the commission’s concerns in order to win approval for the two agreements. But Fair Work vice president Adam Hatcher and deputy president Anna Booth, in a final judgment handed down this week, found BHP had failed to obtain the proper level of consent among relevant workforces before the deals being struck and therefore were not legally approved.

“We are not satisfied … that the production agreement or the maintenance agreement were genuinely agreed to by the employees covered by the agreements,” the judgment said. “The agreements cannot be approved.”


Construction, Forestry Mining and Energy Union (CFMEU) officials, representing BHP’s coal mine workforces in Queensland, called on BHP to apologise to Operations Services employees.

“BHP is hardly a newcomer to the industry. They know what is required,” CFMEU mining and energy president Tony Maher said. “They should apologise to their Operations Services employees for this sneaky manoeuvre and immediately begin genuine bargaining for new agreements that reflect coal mining industry standards.”

Following the verdict, which affects the 3400 Operations Services employees across the country, BHP on Friday said it was considering the full bench’s findings before considering its next steps regarding workplace bargaining options.

“We would like to reassure our Operations Services team members that this decision does not impact the terms and conditions set out in their employment contracts,” BHP vice president Operations Services Mark Swinnerton. “They can come to work tomorrow as usual and receive the benefits that they signed up for.”

Trade unions, however, have fought the model, saying the new agreements have undercut BHP’s direct coal-mining workforce by as much as $50,000 a year and remove crucial entitlements. The union movement’s push has centred on BHP’s metallurgical coal mines in Queesnland’s Bowen Basin, where the CFMEU has argued Operational Services employees should receive the same pay and conditions covering the rest of the workforce, which are superior.

The CFMEU is now calling for BHP to engage in genuine bargaining to “give Operations Services workers a say over the terms and conditions of their employment, the same as the rest of its coal workforce”.

Most Viewed in Business

Source: Thanks