About 3500 workers took part in six-hour rolling stoppages at seven mines owned by BHP Billiton Mitsubishi Alliance (BMA) in Queensland's Bowen Basin last week before meetings between unions and management starting today.
If the company and union officials don't make progress in the talks, the workers ''want us to come back and give them an update on all the reasons why and then they'll take it from there,'' said Stephen Smyth, the president of the Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union's mining and energy division in Queensland. ''If there's any further action required the membership will make that decision.''
The risk of further, protracted strikes may boost coking-coal prices, which have been driven higher by supply shortages following floods in the state, said ANZ's resource analyst, Natalie Robertson.
BHP reported a 14 per cent decline in production last quarter after torrential rains inundated mines in Queensland, Australia's biggest exporter of the commodity.
The CFMEU and other unions are seeking a new enterprise agreement with BMA that seeks new wages and conditions, as well as addressing concerns about job security and recruitment, the union's website says.
The union, which has to give three working days' notice of any further action, still wanted to negotiate, Mr Smyth said. ''Hopefully this week will be a lot more positive than it has been.''
Unions are stepping up demands for wage rises and job security after rising commodity prices lifted profits at mining companies. Steel-making coal prices rose 47 per cent to a record $US330 a tonne for three-month contracts beginning on April 1.
''BMA is strongly of the view that taking industrial action is premature given discussions are still progressing,'' BHP said last week. (By Bloomberg)