Article updated 3:30pm, 3 August
A BHP worker has died while challenging the company about the introduction of 12-hour shifts. He was one of two men contesting this decision.
Working as boilermakers, Ian Jacoby and Vincent Blagotinsek had over 80 years of experience between them at BHP. Earlier this year, the company increased their shifts from eight to 12 hours per day, a move which they originally fought due to health concerns.
According to the ABC, the pair went on immediate leave with BHP threatening disciplinary action and possible termination if they failed to return to work.
This week, Jacoby died with relatives saying that the stress of the six-month long conflict played a contributing factor. "They just kept getting threatening letters. Ian got so sick that he didn't want to go to the doctors," Kerry Jacoby said of her husband’s death. "I don't think anyone believed how sick he was; he just, I think he gave up."
The Australian Manufacturing Workers Union (AMWU) has requested that BHP compensate both the bereaved family and the other worker, Blagotinsek. They claim the pair was treated “disgracefully” even after personal and BHP-recommended physicians relayed concerns about their health.
AMWU spokesman, Steve McCartney, called on the government to step in. "What we want the government to do is to stand up and to tell BHP they need to realise their responsibilities with these guys and their families, especially as they get in their later years," he said.
A BHP spokesperson said, "BHP Billiton Iron Ore was saddened by the news of Mr Jacoby’s death. Our thoughts are with his family and friends at this difficult time".
BHP also said they undertook more than three months of consultation with Jacoby and Blagnotinsek. The company identified alternative 8-hour shifts suitable for the pair but could not offer them the roles directly "as there were others in the [business] ... who had been made redundant and it would have been unfair to ... deny others who no longer had a job an equal opportunity to apply".
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