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Employer accused of pushing Qld coal workers to give up entitlements, resign

Daunia coal mine trucks
Daunia coal mine trucks

Resources employees faced a difficult decision in Queensland’s Central Highlands and Isaac regions.

Workers were recently given seven days to accept new individual contracts with less attractive entitlements or leave the Blackwater (226km west of Rockhampton) and Daunia (170km southwest of Mackay) coal mines for good.

The Collieries’ Staff and Officials Association (CSOA) claimed new owner Whitehaven Coal refused to retain BHP Mitsubishi Alliance’s accident pay, consultation rights, roster change notice periods and “superior” redundancy benefits.

So-called WorkChoices agreements reportedly introduced offsets to absorb future superannuation increases, and stripped 300 affected workers of up to $100,000 in accrued entitlements. This was feared to affect those planning to retire or accept a redundancy package.

“Workers at Daunia and Blackwater coal mines were advised by BHP in writing that their wages and conditions under Whitehaven ownership would be no less favourable overall,” CSOA Queensland organiser Zac Gallagher said in a public statement.

“After not being informed initially about the true nature of the transition, to ram through this flawed deal, workers at both sites have been given just seven days to accept the new contracts on a ‘take it or leave it’ basis – and that is simply unacceptable.”

Gallagher urged BMA to do the “right thing” and use its US$4.1 billion (A$6.4B) sale of Blackwater and Daunia as leverage to preserve employee perks.

“BHP took a different approach in the sale of South Walker Creek and Poitrel to Stanmore where it did a deal that preserved worker’s award entitlements,” the association said.

“We call on BHP and Whitehaven to withdraw this flawed deal, which sells out workers and ask that they return to the table with a deal that honours the conditions and entitlements this highly professional mining workforce was promised and rightly deserves.”

Gallagher is also lobbying the federal government to introduce rules that prevent new management from stripping entitlements under the Fair Work Act’s annual guarantees of earnings clauses.

“Thanks to these [John] Howard-era WorkChoices individual contracts they can get away with this unless this major loophole is closed,” he said.

Click here for more on CSOA’s campaign.

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