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Axed coal employees awarded up to $290K after legal battle

North Goonyella Coal Mine
North Goonyella Coal Mine

Retrenched coal workers won a lawsuit over entitlements worth hundreds of thousands of dollars.

The Federal Court of Australia recently awarded former employees unpaid entitlements from their time at Peabody Energy’s North Goonyella Coal Mine (196km southwest of Mackay) and Wambo Coal Mine (92km northwest of Newcastle).

About 20 redundant individuals will share in between $109,000 and $290,000 in untaken sick leave. Other laid off staff members are also entitled to their untaken sick leave, if they earned more than $162,000 per annum. This applies even if no relevant clause exists in their contracts.

“Had Peabody’s attempt been successful it would open the door for any employee in any industry earning over $163,000 – whether it be engineering, mining, manufacturing or any other – having the rights and working conditions of their award being stripped away,” Collieries’ Staff and Officials Association director Catherine Bolger said according to News Limited.

“It is a shame that it has taken two years to confirm basic workplace entitlements, after their working and family lives were uprooted due to no fault of their own following a serious safety incident.”

A Peabody spokesperson confirmed the employer is still reviewing the court’s decision and will respond shortly.

The crew was sacked after a 2018 fire closed North Goonyella mine and postponed a much-needed expansion that extends the operation’s lifespan until at least 2026.

Meanwhile, Evolution Mining increased wages by between 5 and 6 per cent after previously considering whether to hire experienced foreigners instead.

Chief financial officer Lawrie Conway had strongly urged the Federal Government to increase overseas labour and immigration intake.

“In a tight labour market like we have at the moment access to skills without creating rampant inflation and just not being able to fill roles is critical to the future of the mining industry and, frankly, the economy of the country,” he earlier said.

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