BHP voices strike fears

BHP Billiton has expressed growing concern over possible industrial action by members of the Maritime Union of Australia (MUA) at Port Hedland.

President Iron Ore, Jimmy Wilson, said any action by MUA members would have severe consequences for Australian exports and would damage the country’s international reputation, and its overall national interest.

“Industrial action by the MUA will stop all shipments out of the port and cost exporters like BHP Billiton, Fortescue Metals Group and Atlas Iron about AUD 100m ($92.6m) a day.

“Mining companies will not be able to make up the shipments lost during industrial action, and governments cannot recover the lost royalties and taxes.

“Any interruption to shipments of iron ore would have a detrimental impact on Australia’s international reputation as a stable and reliable supplier of critical resources.”

Wilson said BHP Billiton was concerned about the progress of conciliation talks between Teekay Marine and the maritime unions, including the MUA, for new enterprise bargaining agreements.

“BHP Billiton, and the resources industry across Australia, is working hard to improve productivity and remain competitive in a challenging economic environment,” he said.

“The MUA is pursuing an unacceptably high salary rise of almost 10% a year and an increase in annual leave without any link to improved productivity.

“Teekay’s maritime union employees at Port Hedland are already the highest paid in the towage industry in Australia.

“Their demands are unreasonable and out of touch with the current economic conditions faced by Australian exporters.

BHP Billiton said it was actively pursuing the limited options available to the company under the Fair Work Act to prevent industrial action at Australia’s largest export facility.

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