Bill Shorten blasts BHP Billiton for ignoring workers

Assitant Treasurer Bill Shorten chats with Ipswich residents regrding their concerns with insurance for their flooded homes.
Assitant Treasurer Bill Shorten chats with Ipswich residents regrding their concerns with insurance for their flooded homes. Rob Williams

BHP Billiton management has been accused of ignoring workers, as Workplace Relations Minister Bill Shorten fired back at the giant after it weighed in on new changes to the Fair Work Act.

BHP's human resources boss Gary Brown made a submission against amendments planned for the Fair Work Act.

These included applying the flexibility given to parents of young children to almost all workers, having to consult with workers whenever it considers a roster change and bullying rules that Mr Brown said could lead to "forum shopping" to push a case when a supervisor is cleared of wrong-doing.

Mr Shorten was asked on Thursday what he thought of this submission after he helped solve the industrial relations spat last year.

The minister said BHP's comments would be considered like those from any other company.

But when quizzed further on his role as mediator, Mr Shorten said: "When 90% of your workforce out of 3000 coal miners, many of whom have got longer service in the pits than some of your senior have in their positions... it's not simply good enough for the company to blame the rules of the ballot."

"If you put your hands over your ears and you don't want to hear what your employees are telling you, well that's one style of management, but I don't think it's the right style of management."

BHP held three ballots for workers to vote on controversial changes to conditions opposed by the unions, two of which were rejected.

The third was accepted following a deal done between union and the mining giant after Mr Shorten and former unionist Bill Kelty were enlisted to help.

A committee looking at the changes is due to report back to the government on May 14.

BHP Billiton declined to comment.

Topics:  bhp billiton bill shorten fair work act

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