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Mine workers brace for talks with BHP Billiton

World Coal,

The giant mining corporation, BHP Billiton, is looking to push through further measures to enhance productivity. However, as key enterprise bargaining agreements (EBAs) with its Australian mine workers loom near on the horizon, the company faces the prospect of industrial action as workers voice displeasure at the company’s cost-cutting strategies.

The company has openly said it intends to cut further jobs at its coal mines, despite having axed hundreds of mining jobs this year alone.

Commentators and mine workers have accused BHP of showing “corporate single-mindedness” and failing to act in the national interest of Australia.

General vice president of the Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union, Wayne McAndrew, said BHP Billiton had demonstrated “a lack of respect” toward its workers, as well as those local communities to its mine sites.

The mining giant now faces the prospect of a new round of coal production disruption, and has released a statement saying it is “closely managing” its industrial relations exposure.

The existing three-year EBA expires in late 2015, and was only entered into after two years of industrial disputes with unions.

"We have a number of agreements which are either in term, expired or just closed out," the head of the group's coal operations, Dean Dalla Vale, said. He argued the company was not in a position “to pay for pay rises”, even though the company announced profits of AU$ 15 billion in August this year.

The looming EBA negotiations come as BHP continues to pursue extensive changes to its coal operations in a bid to lift productivity amid a continued slump in coal prices.

In total, labour and contractors make up around half of the group's operating costs in the coal division.

Dalla Vale also said the corporation would look to utilise equipment, such as wash plants and haulage trucks, more effectively. 

Written by Sam Dodson

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