BHP Billiton admits lockout of local workers is contentious

IN THE face of growing opposition to BHP Billiton's locking out of local workers from jobs at its new Central Queensland mines, company coal boss Dean Dalla Valle has admitted the arrangements are "contentious".

Speaking at a Brisbane conference on the global outlook for coal, Mr Dalla Valle said recruiting 900 people exclusively from Cairns and Brisbane allowed it to have more than half its workers new to mining.

Workers in central Queensland, including qualified workers in surrounding towns, were not considered.

"Now I know it has been contentious with some stakeholders that we made a decision to source the workforce for these mines as a fly-in, fly-out, or FIFO, workforce," he said.

Mr Dalla Valle said BHP was training caterers, carpenters and other tradies to work on sites as safety officers and machine operators.

This week Lember for Mackay and Deputy Opposition Leader Tim Mulherin again accused 100% FIFO arrangements of being "postcode apartheid".

Mr Mulherin said in the past year thousands of locals had lost their mining jobs, replaced by out-of-towners.

Mr Dalla Valle said Daunia - one of its two 100% FIFO mines - had a "diverse, enthusiastic group of new people".

"Our regional-based workforce will still remain important to our overall mix."

BHP through its alliances with Mitsubishi employs 6000 of its 7000-strong workforce from central Queensland.