BHP Billiton discloses the pay gap between Australian and US mines


BHP Billiton has revealed that it is paying up to 50% higher wages to some of its coalmining workers compared to equivalent employees in the USA, stressing the company’s “productivity and cost challenge” in Australia.

BHP Billiton Image credit: User: Jason Rhodes
BHP Billiton
Image credit: User: Jason Rhodes

Speaking at CEDA’s Energy and Resources series in Brisbane on Wednesday, BHP Billiton coal president Dean Dalla Valle said the company was making “hard decisions” and working to transform the culture of the coalmining sector.

According to the article on The Australian, Mr Dalla Valle has also called for wage restraint. He said BHP management and its employees needed to work harder and show “wage restraint.”

“We have invested in systems to standardise many aspects of the way we manage our business all over the world,’’ he told the Committee for Economic Development of Australia luncheon in Brisbane.

“This has been an advantage as I look across the 20 operations I’m responsible for and identify ways to improve productivity.”

Mr Dalla Valle said the company had approximately 1.5 times greater cost for a truck operator in the Bowen Basin compared to the same truck in New Mexico in the USA.

“This highlights the productivity and cost challenge we have in Australia. We must always remember that the world sets our prices and Australia sets our costs,’’ he said.

The Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU) secretary Dave Oliver attacked Mr Dalla Valle’s comments.

“Many Australians would find it offensive for an executive from a highly profitable multinational to complain Australian wages are too high. The truth is that productivity is up, wages growth is slow, businesses are enjoying huge profits while workers’ share of the pie is getting smaller and smaller, and Australia is a high-cost country to live in,” Mr Oliver said.

“It’s no surprise that businesses are trying to get away with paying workers less and they know they’ve got their very own cheer squad in the form of the Abbott government, who will do whatever they can to help cut the wages and conditions of hard working Australians.’’

Andrew Vickers, General Secretary of the Construction Forestry Mining and Energy Union’s (CFMEU) mining and energy division, said he thought it was unfortunate that BHP Billiton had decided to join the bandwagon of chorus of criticism of workers’ wages in this country.

He pointed out that BHP Billiton had offered workers a 5% pay rise during its long-running dispute with unions in the Bowen Basin, contributing to the current wage levels that management was complaining about.

The latest brawl came as a survey released yesterday found 79% of workers were open to change in their workplace in order to improve productivity. According to the poll, workers nominated more effective leadership and management, and the introduction of new equipment or up-to-date technology as the most common type of change to increase productivity.