Project: Kalgoorlie Nickel Smelter Furnace Rebuild 2008
Client: BHP Billiton Nickel West
Work Completed: IR Planning and Onsite IR Advice (3 months)
BHP Billiton – Nickel West (‘BHPB’) were engaging more than 500 contractor employees to complete the Kalgoorlie Nickel Smelter (‘KNS’) Furnace Rebuild (‘Rebuild’) over a three to four month period, which is much longer than a normal shutdown.
A rebuild (also referred to as a reline) refers to the periodic statutory re-lining (with refractory bricks) which a furnace must undergo to continue safe smelting operations.
Brief - IR Planning and Onsite IR Advice
AMMA’s primary role was that of onsite IR adviser to contractors during the Rebuild’s planning and execution phases. The onsite role also involved managing union right of entry issues. AMMA’s secondary role was to provide IR advice and support to BHPB, specifically on contractor pay rates and conditions of employment, during the planning and execution phases of the Rebuild.
Due to AMMA’s extensive onsite experience and knowledge of major Shutdown projects in the resources sector, we were well-placed to assist BHPB with the provision of industrial relations (‘IR’) services in relation to the Rebuild. AMMA provided advice, support and guidance to BHPB and its contractors from the IR planning phase commencing in early 2008 through to the final IR review phase in December 2008, including onsite IR services during the 90+ day execution phase.
During the planning phase, AMMA guided BHPB in the process of acquiring relevant information from its contractors about the rates of pay and conditions they had in place for the Rebuild. AMMA and BHPB subsequently assessed the contractors in order to understand the IR risks being introduced to KNS by BHPB’s contractors. During this phase AMMA also attended partnership and alignment meetings between BHPB and its key contractors with the primary aim of establishing effective employee engagement, communication, and line management structures and systems prior to the Rebuild so that any potential issues involving contractor employees onsite during the Rebuild could be addressed consistently.
Whilst onsite at KNS during the major portion (90 days) of the Rebuild’s execution phase, AMMA continued to attend these contractor IR meetings on a daily basis. This ensured that critical messages about IR issues, safety and other relevant announcements were communicated to contractors and their employees in an effective and timely manner and consequently, potential IR issues involving contractor employees’ onsite were addressed accordingly.
Via participation in meetings between BHPB and its key contractors prior to the Rebuild as well as onsite during the Rebuild, AMMA was able to establish a consistent and transparent approach to managing contractor IR issues.
The Rebuild went quite smoothly, which was largely a result of identifying potential issues and risk in the planning phase. Good communication about BHPB’s Fitness for Work (‘FFW’), site security (bag searches) and clean shaven requirement during the planning phase resulted in an insignificant number of issues in these areas during the rebuild.
During the execution phase, AMMA provided a critical link between BHPB’s highly effective Execution Manager and the contractor employees via daily interaction with the contractors’ onsite managers, delivering consistency and in turn success in relation to IR issue management throughout the exceptionally long event. The development and implementation of various contingency plans by AMMA and BHPB prior to the Rebuild, particularly in relation to the payment of a performance incentive payment, almost certainly prevented potential IR issues translating into industrial lost time during the Rebuild.
AMMA’s provision of onsite IR services and specific recommendations on market rates of pay and conditions ultimately resulted in the Rebuild experiencing no industrial lost time, which was an exceptional outcome for such a long event, particularly given the availability of labour at that time. Furthermore, the IR processes and experience implemented arising out of the Rebuild now place BHPB and its contractors in an enhanced position in relation to managing onsite IR issues going forward.