Union tells BHP: buy local steel
The Australian Manufacturing Workers Union has fired a warning shot at BHP as the union seeks to secure major steel work for local fabricators from the miner’s next Pilbara mine.
The AMWU fears as much as 24,000 tonnes of structural steel work linked to BHP’s proposed $US3.6 billion ($4.8 billion) South Flank project will be sent to offshore manufacturers.
The union has put the company on notice and called on Premier Mark McGowan to “remind” BHP of “its obligation to prioritise WA jobs”.
“If we don’t get this work through our fabrication industry, what work are we going to get,” AMWU State secretary Steve McCartney said.
He says South Flank will provide the first real test of Mr McGowan’s post-election call for big resource development contracts to support local suppliers even if the work can sometimes be done cheaper elsewhere.
“We want the Government to stand up for local content,” Mr McCartney said.
The BHP board has still to give the go-ahead to South Flank, 130km north-west of Newman, and no steel fabrication contracts have yet been awarded. “The South Flank project is still subject to internal and external approvals,” it said.
However, the group also noted that of the $US184 million of initial funding already approved for South Flank, almost $US168 million had been awarded to Australian companies, 94 per cent of them in WA.
Local manufacturers have lost out on big resources contracts in the past, but Mr McCartney said the South Flank work was easily within WA’s capabilities.
“We can do this on our ear in WA,” he said.
“There’s plenty of boilermakers out of work, (and) there’s plenty of companies that need the work.
“And if you’re going to take a one-off resource out of the ground, then you should be value-adding to it somewhere along the line.”
Mr McCartney said based on past contracts, 24,000 tonnes of steel work could employ as many as 2000 workers and create new apprenticeships.
First ore from South Flank, which will replace BHP’s depleting Yandi ore body, is due by 2021. The project is expected to be submitted for board approval by the end of June.