THE ACTU congress has condemned BHP Billiton’s safety record after company chairman Jac Nasser slammed Australian labour laws for being too restrictive.

Mr Nasser has said inflexible regulations are causing never-ending industrial strife at BHP’s central Queensland coal mines.

But the ACTU congress in Sydney has passed a resolution declaring its support for the 4000 BHP mineworkers in the Bowen Basin who have been engaged in an 18-month stand-off over enterprise bargaining.

It accused BHP of wanting to dilute safety in Queensland, arguing this approach had caused the deaths of 29 coal miners at the Pike River Coal Ltd’s mine in New Zealand in November 2010.

“We condemn BHP’s pursuit of safety deregulation that would transfer vital safety roles from qualified workers on the job to management,” it said.

“We note that this was the key factor that led to the recent Pike River disaster in New Zealand in which 29 coal miners perished.”

The ACTU resolution also accused BHP of being unco-operative with the Construction Forestry Mining and Energy Union, the Australian Manufacturing Workers’ Union and the Electrical Trades Union.

“We fully support the mineworkers in their campaign to protect their rights at work and defend vital safety, workplace and other conditions such as rosters and accommodation that would further damage families and hurt mining communities if BHP has its way,” it said.

Federal Workplace Relations Minister Bill Shorten, who addressed the ACTU conference on Thursday, said BHP Billiton’s inability to negotiate with staff was to blame for its industrial strife.

“If a company is struggling to persuade its longstanding workforce of the case for change, then perhaps the problem isn’t just the law, maybe it’s the way the case is being put and the engagement of the workforce,” he said.


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