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BHP’s transformational agenda

BHPs transformational agenda is driving alot of things but will it affect safety in the short-term?

BHPs announcement to slash 700 jobs (as part of its transformational agenda) across its global workforce of around 62000 has sent a shiver through white-collar staff in its global offices. There’s a nervous twitching among some executives and other white-collar staff who keep asking themselves ‘will I survive the axe?’

This is no doubt a time of destabilisation of a large workforce. It’s a time when unnecessary and unwarranted stressors are placed on individuals who, with generally good intentions, have sought to turn up and give their all to the big Australian..some for many, many years. Some unwittingly will have just accepted a new job in an area about to be axed. Some will have just taken on a new mortgage or committed their kids to a private school.

With the bulk of the white-collar staff expected to depart from Australian offices like Perth, there’s a number of questions remaining about the intangible effects on BHPs management of workplace safety in light of its planned cuts. Let’s face it…announcing to the market that you’re going to axe people before you axe them is potentially a stunt in seeking to minimise a shareholder backlash rather than a demonstration of care and concern for those you’re about to say goodbye to.

BHP can talk all day about a transformational agenda running across workplaces but these 700 people are real human beings who, mostly, have sought to do the right thing by BHP and suddenly they find out that…alas, it’s all been in vain. The transformational agenda that you’re about to impose on those departing BHP is probably going to be one of the largest transformational impacts on their lives and potentially their families.

There’s an automated haul truck load of management rhetoric out there as the big Australian seeks to sure up its’ transformational agenda and even some of it…believe it or not, talks about the benefits to workplace safety of the agenda in the midst of disaster.

Don’t be so negative you say….it’s about the long term survivability for the company. It’s about…well…the shareholders right?

McKenzie said recently on automation transformation, that it will drive a “step change in safety, volume and cost.”

Really, BHP…’ve had a train disaster, a dozer operator in a fatal accident, excavators falling from benches and you’ve got people sitting quivering in their offices for fear of their jobs and…. you and your team is playing a ‘safety card’ and talking about a ‘transformational agenda.’

Have you BHP currently considered the psychological health and well being of the workforce in the midst of redundancy announcements to the market instead of individuals?

Mackenzie has previously highlighted to shareholders that BHP’s transformation programme would start with “world-class functions”, which is geared around benchmarking all BHP’s functions against best-in-class from around the world, simplifying the internal processes by taking work away and reducing costs as a consequence, and also reducing cycle times, increasing speed to market in a number of areas.

“It includes something we call our new operating system, which is about our culture and how we organise our work. It is about teaching people at the frontline how to look almost move-by-move at how they can actually do their jobs more effectively,” Mackenzie said during the company’s full-year results in 2018.

We all understand that in a business as big as BHP there’s bound to be some wastage and its’ reasonable business practice to prune the roses occasionally but really… have your roses got so far out of control this summer that you need to bring in a continuous miner fitted with razor blades and a chainsaw or two? One would have thought the process is more about evolution than revolution.

Oh and on the subject of safety of the workforce above all… we recently learned that at the Saraji mine where an operator died in January this year, there have been a number of issues with gas in the pit below RL116. As per the Safe Working Instruction 232, gas monitors are to be used in the area…of course that’s only for some right…doesn’t apply to everyone because we tested it once in the shift and it was all OK. Seems like there’s a lot of transformation needed in the coal operations, particularly to deal with the Saraji spontaneous combustion on RL145 end wall..not to mention the suspected asbestos material in the pit.

It’s all good though…the transformational agenda is the key to a successful future.

Streamlining finance, human resources, technology and external affairs are clearly needed as part of the transformational agenda but…maybe being able to see the wood from the trees is also much needed in BHPs Boardroom and operations at the moment.

The disconnect between boardrooms and workforce is potentially becoming more prevalent and the fact that management is pinning their hopes on automation and…not having to deal with those horrible little people is seriously concerning.

Of course, BHP you could stop, look and take a leaf out of Vale’s book of what not to do to your workforce. You could actually have a look at the potential issues of shareholder backlash when they discover that what you espouse and what you do can well…differ just a wee bit.

Building trust and confidence in managing health, safety and in an organisation is no mean feat but at some points in the transformational agenda, there must be a recognition of employee value over shareholder value. BHP was never built on robots…it was built on people showing respect to a company and a cause. Showing a little respect and consideration for those people who contributed to building your company might actually win you some shareholder value in the long term.

Of course, you’ll fix all that in the new transformational agenda, won’t you?

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AMSJ Nov 2021