April 19, 2012 / 11:26 AM / 7 years ago

BHP union workers lose Australia labour court ruling

PERTH, April 19 (Reuters) - Workers at BHP Billiton coal mines in Australia coal mines lost a bid to stop the company from holding a postal ballot on a new work contract and workers at five mines will continue to strike on Friday, a union official said Thursday.

The Australian government labour court, Fair Work Australia, ruled in favor of a postal ballot for a new work contract proposed by BHP that would cover workers at the seven Queensland mines that BHP owns jointly with Mitsubishi Corp through the BHP Billiton-Mitsubishi Alliance.

The union prefers an attendance ballot and says hundreds of members have not received information packs about the agreement.

Workers at five BMA coal mines will hold another 24-hour strike on Friday, continuing a months-long campaign of rolling stoppages, union spokesman Stephen Smyth said.

About a third of the 10,000 BMA mine employees are unionised, and the stoppages, along with the impact of heavy rains have resulted in sharp drops in coal production.

BHP earlier this month declared force majeure on deliveries from the mines, which are owned in partnership with Japanese trading house Mitsubishi Corp

Force majeure is a legal clause relieving companies of immediate supply obligations due to circumstances beyond their control.

In total, mines operated under the BMA partnership have an output capacity of more than 58 million tonnes a year, representing about a fifth of annual global trade in metallurgical coal.

A BHP spokeswoman was not immediately available to comment on the Fair Work Australia decision.

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