Regulatory authorities should prohibit industry managers from relying on high numbers of casual workers to keep operating mines, an industry group has urged.
The Construction, Forestry, Maritime, Mining and Energy Union (CFMMEU) believes the federal government should crack down against resources operations that save money by replacing permanent staff with cheaper casual labour hire workers.
It comes after One Nation Senator Malcolm Roberts recently expressed outrage in parliament about the dwindling number of permanent jobs and what he described to be exploitation of casual workers in the coal sector.
“Rampant casualisation is a disgrace and a cancer on our industry,” CFMEU mining and energy division general president Tony Maher said in a public statement. “We think One Nation should be targeting the real culprits – greedy mining bosses and governments that don’t back workers … like BHP (pictured) who are driving this agenda and the Morrison government, which refuses to change workplace laws to prevent casual exploitation.”
Half are casual
The union claims the typical Australian coal mine employs up to half or more of its workforce on a casual basis through labour hire companies. The strategy is not illegal under current workplace laws.
“[They are] working alongside permanents on the same roster but for substantially less pay and worse conditions,” Maher said. “Our union has invested considerably in trying to change the law to better reflect community standards about the nature of casual work, particularly where it is not true ‘casual’ work but, more accurately, highly insecure permanent work.”
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Although the senator believes it is illegal to employ coal miners casually because the Black Coal Mining Industry Award does not recognise casual employment, CFMMEU maintains enterprise agreements (EAs) allow casual work approved by the Fair Work Commission.
“These labour hire EAs leave people substantially worse off than permanent workers on union-negotiated site agreements with the mine operator,” Maher said. “In the absence of ‘same job, same pay’ laws, this is deeply unfair but not illegal.”
He also dismissed the senator’s view that union involvement in Coal Long Service Leave, NSW Coal Services and other industry bodies could hinder workers’ interests as “complete rubbish”.
“Our involvement means we have retained one of the best long service leave schemes in the world for Australian coal miners – a national, portable scheme with 13 weeks’ leave after eight years whether they are permanent or casual, regardless of changing
employers or having a break from the industry,” Maher said. “In NSW, our involvement in coal services over many decades means we have the best health monitoring and surveillance regime for coal workers in the world.”