Union talks with BHP over train driver pay to recommence

Pay deals between BHP and its rail drivers have recommenced after the miner failed to meet union demands of pay rises, cheap rent in the Pilbara and extra annual leave.

The CFMEU said BHP’s three-year pay offer was rejected by about 60 per cent of 350 rail drivers in April this year.

Pay negotiations with BHP Billiton started last year, representing the continuing strengthening of CFMEU presence in the Pilbara.

The union negotiations are the first major talks with BHP in the Pilbara for more than a decade.

Wood told Australian Mining negotiations were set to recommence in the coming weeks.

Wood said the offer was rejected because the company did not meet a key demand for guaranteed annual pay rises of “ideally between 4 or 5 per cent.”

Wood also said workers were distrustful of BHP Billiton's offer for performance-based annual increases, adding that the miner failed to meet other key demands including for FIFO workers to be awarded an extra four hours of annual leave per swing to compensate for travel time to and from site.

This has the potential of adding an extra week or two to annual leave per year, depending on each employee‘s roster, The West Australian reported.

Wood said that the drivers should be able recoup time when travelling to and from site during their R&R leave.

The third key demand was for 50 Port Hedland-based train drivers to gain access to BHP-owned housing.

In return, the staff would give up an existing $1800 weekly allowance for offsite accommodation.

Wood said rental homes cost more than $2000 a week in Port Hedland and with workers fearing rents could increase further.

In 2011 Rio Tinto lost a High Court battle over bypassing unions in negotiations with workers on its Pilbara iron ore operations with the decision sparking fear that the unions return would see outrageous demands fly.

However Woods said the union demands were proof it was being responsible.

He told ABC News the CFMEU entered the bargaining in good faith.

"We are not going into the discussions trying to turn the world upside down, what we are trying to do is hopefully get an agreement which accommodates both the employees and the employer," he said.


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