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Coal mine accused of using COVID-19 to axe labour hire wages

Illawarra Metallurgical Coal
Illawarra Metallurgical Coal

A mining and metals company allegedly took advantage of the worldwide pandemic to reduce outsourced worker earnings, an industry group said.

South 32 has been accused of exploiting the Chinese coronavirus crisis to drive-down labour hire wages and safety conditions at the Appin Coal Mine, 76km southwest of Sydney.

500 job cuts

The Construction, Forestry, Maritime, Mining and Energy Union (CFMEU) revealed the proponent has already retrenched 250 contractors since April, most of whom used to work for the Illawarra Metallurgical Coal operation in Appin.

South 32 recently cancelled its outbye services contract with Mastermyne Group, putting 200 contract staff out of work. A further 50 workers from Nexus Mining have also been told to start packing and leave.

Most of the labour hire workers are now being provided through PIMS Group and WorkPac Group, which the Federal Court recently ordered to backpay one casual employee for annual leave, public holidays, and compassionate/personal/carer’s leave he did not take.

‘Cheapest and worst providers’

The union described the job cuts as a “cynical” attempt to replace labour hire providers, which operate more safely and offer better work conditions, with the “cheapest and worst providers”.

“Besides lower hourly rates, one big difference with PIMS and WorkPac is that it attaches bonuses to productivity outcomes instead of safety so, instead of getting bonuses for checking off safety standards, as was the case with Mastermyne, workers will be offered bonuses only if they hit productivity targets,” CFMEU south western district vice president Bob Timbs said in a public statement.

“This a sure-fire way to incentivise unsafe work practices and its exactly the sort of thing our union and the community has fought hard against in the past.”

Drop the ‘penny pinching’

Timbs urged the proponent to provide “basic fairness” and ensure no worker is disadvantaged by the change in labour hire providers.

“South 32 should drop the cynical penny pinching [and] prioritise worker wellbeing,” he said.

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Meanwhile, CFMEU is looking for a full-time growth and campaigning organiser to deliver targeted campaigns at its Mackay office.

Applicants must be self-motivated, a team player and previous union experience. An annual salary package will be offered, ranging between $100,000 and $115,000 plus benefits.

Click here to apply.

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