The peak mining body has called for union restraint as the movement finally gets a foothold in BHP Billiton's Pilbara mines.
The Australian Mines and Metals Association warned the company's first substantial union pay talks for its Pilbara operations would take place in an industrial era where it was relatively easy for unions to strike, compared to previous regimes.
BHP Billiton was already locked in a dispute with the mining union at its Queensland coal mines.
The fight will culminate tomorrow with a strike by 4000 workers at six sites in central Queensland.
BHP Billiton has avoided union negotiations under the Fair Work regime in WA after signing up workers to long-term individual agreements before they were abolished by the Gillard Government
But the mining giant confirmed this week it is set to negotiate with unions, up to a year before it would be legally required to do so. The company has not had a substantial union agreement in more than a decade.
Despite inviting early talks, the mining giant is unlikely to welcome the union negotiations.
BHP Billiton chairman Jac Nasser recently said Australia's IR pendulum had swung too far in favour of unions, pitting "labour against capital" and affecting companies' productivity.
AMMA, which will host its national conference in Perth from today, called for unions to consider the broader economic and employment consequences of strike action. "In an extremely competitive environment, employers are now often facing the threat of industrial action occurring over matters not directly related to the employment relationship," AMMA spokesperson Minna Knight said."With many workplace agreements set to be renegotiated under the Fair Work Act in the next year, the industry is concerned about just how easy it is to strike under the current IR laws."
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