The Guardian February 2, 2000

BHP dispute: Strike one to workers

The struggle against BHP's attempt to deunionise its iron ore operations 
in the Pilbara, WA, gained a victory in the Federal Court this week. The 
Court found that BHP may have breached the Workplace Relations Act by 
offering individual contracts to 1,000 workers at its Pilbara operations. 
An interim injunction has been issued by the Court stopping, at least for 
the time being, BHP pursuing its push for individual contracts.

The Court action followed a four-day strike during which picketers came 
under vicious attack from police.

Five unions  the AWU, CFMEU, CEPU, AMWU, TWU  representing the BHP 
workers applied for the injunction. The ACTU said the implication of the 
decision was that workers have the right to bargain collectively.

On Wednesday this week ACTU Secretary-elect, Greg Combet, will attend a 
mass meeting of delegates and members at the Trades and Labour Council 
headquarters in Perth.

On Thursday there will be a mass meeting at Mount Newman and a shop 
stewards' meeting at Port Headland iron ore plants, followed by a mass 
meeting on Friday morning.

"Where it goes from there will depend on what the decisions of those 
meetings are", AWU State Secretary, Tim Daly, told The Guardian.

Mr Daly said a proposed 24-hour stoppage across all of BHP's operations had 
been put on hold. In addition there has been ongoing correspondence with 
the world union body, the International Metals Federation which, in co-
ordination with the International Transport Workers' Federation, has been 
preparing for international support if necessary.

The ACTU says the majority of the workers want to negotiate a collective 
agreement, the Court order confirms their right to do this. It remains to 
be seen whether BHP will now come to the negotiating table.

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