CLOSE to 1000 Blackwater residents gathered in full force last night to discuss BHP’s intention to contract out 300 permanent jobs at the Blackwater coal mine.
The small, tight-knit community are fighting for their town which will not only effect the towns employment, but could see sports teams disappear, teachers leaving schools and small business owners shutting their doors.
Member for Mirani Jim Pearce chaired the forum with stakeholders invited to attend, including MPs and Councillors.
CFMEU Mining and Energy District President Steve Smyth said BHP had gone too far and the casualisation of the workforce at Blackwater would have serious implications for Blackwater and surrounding communities.
“This can’t be about party politics. Together as a community we need to pull together and talk about the impact of BHP’s announcement and the damage it would inflict on the people of Blackwater if it is allowed to proceed with its attacks,” Mr Smyth said.
“BHP is clearly looking for every opportunity to casualise and contract out the mining workforce in Australia which means less pay, worse conditions, a more hazardous workplace and compromised entitlements for the same work.
“BHP argue the changes are a necessary response to falling coal prices, when in fact much of the impact of lower coal prices is being offset by a sharp decline in the Australian dollar.
“So the argument that they don’t need these workers is a smokescreen – its about replacing permanent jobs with contract jobs so they can pay lower wages and less legal entitlements.”
BHP is proposing bringing in more than 300 contractors to replace permanent employees and have said the decision is not about cost but rather about productivity.
“Workers from Blackwater and their representatives have tried to engage with BHP on alternatives to achieve the same supposed productivity gains – but BHP has refused to listen,” said Mr Smyth.
“This is despite employees at the mine successfully meeting productivity improvements on at least three previous occasions when asked. This time BHP has decided it wants to get rid of them instead.
“We will stand up for local workers rights and our community’s welfare and anyone who will stand with us is welcome at this week’s forum whether they be Labor, Liberal, National, KAP, Green or other.”
After the announcement in August, BMA Asset President Rag Udd said the service contracts were essential in ensuring the best prospect of Blackwater Mine continuing to operate in a commercially viable way, to provide ongoing employment opportunities.
“Despite extensive work over the past three years to reset our costs and to safely improve the productivity at each of our mines, further deterioration of global metallurgical coal prices means that we must continue to find ways to safely improve our operational performance,” Mr Udd said.
Image: CFMEU Facebook page