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Issue #1925      July 27, 2020

Unions derail BHP’s attempt to cut pay and conditions for thousands of workers

Statement via Australian Workers’ Union (AWU)

BHP has been dealt another blow in its attempts to bring in two new enterprise agreements for its in-house “Operational Services” labour hire companies which could have seen workers’ pay slashed by up to $30,000 per year.

Earlier this week, the Fair Work Commission (FWC) indicated it is inclined to disallow the BHP “Operational Services” agreements because they did not meet the better off overall requirement. The FWC also had concerns they were not genuinely agreed to by workers.

BHP now has just seven days to address the concerns raised by the FWC but the bench has indicated it’s likely to dismiss BHP’s applications to approve the deals marking a huge win for the Australian Workers’ Union (AWU) and the CFMEU’s Mining & Energy division.

The legal battle began two years ago when BHP set up its own labour hire companies and got just a handful of employees in Western Australia to vote for two proposed agreements that contained vastly inferior terms to those already enjoyed by BHP employees.

Daniel Walton, National Secretary of the AWU, said there was no doubt that BHP would have used the new EBAs to undercut the pay and conditions of its entire mining industry workforce – affecting thousands of workers.

Walton said: “Taking on BHP with their army of lawyers was always going to be a time consuming and expensive process but we have shown that it pays to persevere and never give up. We could not have done this without the support of our members, and our partner union. This demonstrates what’s possible when we come together.”

The FWC process began in early 2019 when the CFMEU’s mining division and the AWU, which are the partner unions of the Western Mine Workers’ Alliance (WMWA) opposed the two agreements.

While we won the appeal to quash an earlier approval of the agreements, the FWC decided the full bench would re-determine the application for approval of the agreements after receiving further submissions from BHP and the unions.

This week the FWC said it would prove “difficult to identify any undertaking which would address our concerns”, and that it “would suggest that the appropriate course is to dismiss” the approval applications “on the basis that we are not satisfied that the requirement for genuine agreement in s186(2)(a) is satisfied in either matter”.

Walton said: “This is a great result but it’s not quite over yet. We will need your continuing support to ensure the pay and working conditions of BHP workers remain fully protected.”

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