BHP Billiton’s Pilbara-based rail drivers have rejected a three-year pay offer after union demands for pay rises, cheap rent, and extra annual leave were not met. The Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union (CFMEU), which had substantially strengthened its presence in the Pilbara in the past year, said the offer was turned down by about 60 per cent of the 350 workers because BHP had not assured annual pay rises of between 4 and 5 per cent.
Negotiations were set to resume in the coming weeks.
BHP initiated talks with the CFMEU in May last year, following the union’s landmark 2011 win, which allowed it to bargain on behalf of workers at the miner’s Pilbara operations.
As of August, the High Court of Australia had allowed CFMEU members working in remote locations and living in employer-provided accommodation to take protected action.
“This is a great result for our remote workers, who before could not take protected action without being kicked out of their camp accommodation,” a CFMEU spokesperson said.
“These workers can now make a decision to take protected action, unburdened from the knowledge that if they do so, they will have nowhere to go at night.”
This followed news that the CFMEU would join forces with the Australian Workers Union to organise Rio Tinto iron ore miners in the Pilbara.
CFMEU national president Tony Maher said the Pilbara Iron Ore Alliance joint venture had been formed to reach out to Rio Tinto’s 15,000-plus non-unionised workers in the region.
“Our first job will be to simply listen to mineworkers’ concerns,” Mr Maher said.
“We don’t have a pre-determined industrial agenda in the Pilbara. “Rather, we want to find out what the issues are on the ground are and how the union can help – whether that’s through personal representation in disputes, a greater voice on safety or support to improve particular conditions.”