25/03/2003 - 21:00

BHP-B wages blow-out caused by AWAs: union

25/03/2003 - 21:00

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THE wage for a fitter on shift at a BHP-Billiton iron ore site has grown by nearly $32,000, from $74,949 in 1999 to $106,800 today, thanks to incentives offered by firstly a Western Australian

THE wage for a fitter on shift at a BHP-Billiton iron ore site has grown by nearly $32,000, from $74,949 in 1999 to $106,800 today, thanks to incentives offered by firstly a Western Australian workplace agreement and then an Australian Workplace Agreement.

At least that is what the unions would like people to believe.

ACTU organiser Will Tracey said the wages had blown out on the BHP-B sites because of the company’s push to put people onto AWAs.

However, workers on awards are not too far behind their salaried colleagues.

After an Australian Industrial Relations arbitrated decision the base award wage, before any overtime is paid, for the same fitter will go to $92,700 from July.

Under that decision, handed down last year, workers paid on the award were granted an immediate 14 per cent increase with a further 6 per cent rise to be added from July.

That 6 per cent rise can be given earlier if certain productivity benchmarks are met, however BHP-B and the unions are arguing as to whether those benchmarks have been met.

Mr Tracey said the unions on site were considering pushing for an equal-pay-for-equal-work action.

“Under the new [WA] legislation they’ve taken out the ban to run equal work for equal pay cases. We now have the ability to go after the money people

are offered under AWAs,” he said.

BHP-B vice-president human resources Jeff Stockden said the company would welcome that if it meant award workers were going to give the same productivity as workers on AWAs.

He said the workers who had gone onto AWAs had given up things such as overtime rates and had, in return for the higher pay, returned productivity in-creases of 15 per cent to 20 per cent.

About 60 per cent of BHP-B’s WA iron ore workers are on AWAs.

“We would argue that the people on awards are not doing equal work to those on AWAs,” Mr Stockden said.

Both the State and Federal industrial relations laws allow equal work for equal pay.

However, Minter Ellison partner Andrew Burnett said that the principle of equal work for equal pay in both acts was aimed at ensuring that men and women were paid equally for equal work, and not the argument of AWAs versus award wages.

While the wage for a fitter on shift may seem high, it takes into account a number of factors such as the specialised nature of the work and various allowances for living and working in WA’s North West.

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