SKIRMISHES fought on Central Queensland mine sites between BHP Billiton and the coal miners' union have been highlighted by chairman Jac Nasser as a sign Australia was losing its international edge.
Mr Nasser used his speech to the Australian Institute of Company Directors on Wednesday to focus on hurdles facing an apparently unstoppable mining boom.
He said he felt the power of unions did not line up with the level of membership which often falls at about 15%, although the Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union would be one of the exceptions to that rule.
In the past 12 months, he said the BHP Billiton Mitsubishi Alliance, which owns seven mines in the Bowen Basin, faced thousands of lost work hours due to union action.
"Let me give you an example. Over the last year, in our Queensland coal business alone, we have faced 3200 incidents of industrial action," he said.
"We have received more than 1000 notices of intention to take industrial action, then approximately 500 notices withdrawing that action given on less than 25 hours notice.
"Restrictive labour regulations have quickly become one of the most problematic factors for doing business in Australia."
The CFMEU has been battling BHP Billiton's coal arm for 16 months during an enterprise bargaining dispute.
"BHP Billiton respects the role of unions in the industrial relations landscape," Mr Nasser said.
"But it is important to have a cooperative framework within which to engage employees who choose union representation."
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