Workers at BHP Australia coal mines vote for another strike

Wed Apr 4, 2012 4:24am EDT
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PERTH (Reuters) - Australian coal mines owned by BHP Billiton (BHP.AX: Quote) (BLT.L: Quote) and Mitsubishi Corp (8058.T: Quote) will be hit by a second seven-day strike after a third of the mines' workforce rejected a BHP labor deal, union officials said on Wednesday.

The mines, operated under the BHP Billiton-Mitsubishi Alliance joint venture, have a combined output capacity of more than 58 million metric tonnes (63.93 million tons) a year, representing about a fifth of annual global trade.

About 3,500 employees led by the Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union (CFMEU) completed a seven-day strike on Tuesday. The union did not give a date for the second strike and union officials were not immediately available for comment.

The strike will not close mines, but again reduce operations. The mines employ around 10,000 people.

On Monday, BHP declared force majeure on deliveries from the predominately metallurgical coal mines in the Bowen Basin, citing long-running labor stoppages compounded by heavy rains that have impeded production runs.

Force majeure is a legal clause relieving companies of immediate supply obligations due to circumstances beyond their control.

Mine workers rejected the latest offer for an enterprise bargaining agreement and overwhelmingly voted to strike again, said CFMEU District President Stephen Smyth.

He said workers rejected the offer because BHP had changed its position on roster issues.

"The workers are ropable (angry) that these negotiations have gone on for so long and just when they thought a resolution was getting nearer, the company comes back to the table having altered in-principle agreement clauses," he said in a statement.   Continued...