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Treating like children: BHP beer ban irks Australian mine workers

By Reuters

By Melanie Burton

MELBOURNE (Reuters) – BHP Group’s new alcohol policy to limit late night drinking at its Australia mines and search belongings for secret stashes of liquor, if needed, infringes on worker rights, the miners union said.

The company’s policy will bar workers on mine sites in Western Australia from consuming alcohol after 9:30 p.m., citing health and safety concerns.

In a letter this week, the Western Mine Workers’ Alliance (WMWA) told BHP the policies fuelled concern over employees’ basic rights to privacy and enjoyment in non-working hours, and added that the miner had not adequately consulted employees.

“If there are issues with some staff, they need to be managed, rather than penalising all the rest of the workers,” Shane Roulstone of the Australian Workers Union told Reuters.

“We just want to be treated like adults.”

BHP said the policy covered workers across its Australian business and was in line with national health guidelines.

“Under the new rules, employees and contractors across all Minerals Australia accommodation villages will be limited to four standard drinks per day,” it said in a statement.

“The decision underscores BHP’s commitment to the health and safety of its people.”

The management also flagged that it would search personal property in serious circumstances but this was a power the union said should be reserved only to police, Roulstone added.

Further curbs set to take effect from July 1 bar workers from consuming the beverage in their quarters after 9:30 p.m.

That meant that support staff, such as cooks, who finished work after the deadline would be deprived of a drink after work, Roulstone said.

Workers’ rooms in mining villages are typically furnished with small bar fridges that stock at most four beers.

“Most people would say, that’s enough, but you’re working long days at high temperatures of 40 degrees to 45 degrees, and 12-hour shifts,” Roulstone added.

For those who fly in to remote mine sites to work for two weeks at a time, the new rules unfairly limit drinking on nights off during transitions between day and night shifts, he said.

(Reporting by Melanie Burton; Editing by Clarence Fernandez)