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Coal shift workers go on strike for allegedly unpaid leave loading

Bloomfield Group
Bloomfield Group

A national mining company has been accused of not paying some penalty rates to coal mine employees who feel unwell or take time off.

Rix’s Creek South Coal mine workers recently urged their employer, Bloomfield Group, to pay night shift loading for both sick and annual leave.

Staff members complained about not receiving the extra money despite always being rostered to work at night.

Staff lose up to $580 a week

They blame the current enterprise agreement (EA) for preventing them from making an extra $580 a week when taking sick leave, and $370 a week when going on annual leave. The employer is yet to meet a key demand for leave to be “paid as [if] at work,” which involves paying additional night loading instead the day rate currently offered in the EA.

The Construction, Forestry, Maritime, Mining and Energy Union (CFMEU) responded by organising two, seven-day strikes in March and April. CFMEU claimed Bloomfield’s recent change of management turned what was once a “fair and reasonable” work environment into a “more hostile and litigious” workplace.

Talks underway

Bloomfield revealed the pandemic has affected its bottomline, and had already started negotiating with workers to try to reach a solution.

“COVID-19 impacted our business significantly and our eligibility for the JobKeeper subsidy has coincided with much of the period of the EA negotiations at Rix’s Creek Mine. Negotiations are continuing and we look forward to reaching a fair and mutually beneficial outcome,” a company spokesperson told QMEB.

The employer rejected CFMEU’s suggestion that any mine employees were incorrectly paid.

“Workers are being paid in line with the current EA agreement and we utterly reject any suggestion of incorrect compensation,” the spokesperson said.

“We are most grateful to all employees and contractors who have continued to support the Rix’s Creek operation, so that we have so far been able to meet all contractual commitments to our customers.”

‘They are wrong’

The union still accuses Bloomfield of trying to discourage workers from demanding what they believe they are entitled to.

“The family-owned company has morphed into a usual coal company, and Bloomfield collieries today is significantly different to what it was 30 years ago. Now it is just like dealing with another Yancoal or Glencore,” northern mining and NSW energy district vice president Jeremy McWilliams said in the union’s Common Cause publication.

“These are permanent night shift workers, they have earned those entitlements and we are determined to fix this … [and,] if they think they can exhaust us through legal action or divide and conquer the workforce, they are wrong.”

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