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Fair Work rejects BHP’s labour hire enterprise agreements

BHP Operations Services worker
A BHP Operations Services worker.

An industrial relations tribunal has sent multiple employee outsourcing contracts back to the drawing board.

The Fair Work Commission recently refused to approve two enterprise agreements in relation to BHP’s in-house labour hire provider Operations Services.

‘Shonky’ deals

A full bench voted in favour of upholding the Construction, Forestry, Maritime, Mining and Energy Union’s (CFMEU’s) appeal against endorsing what it described as “shonky” deals that gave employees no bargaining power over their work conditions.

CFMEU accused the mining giant of using a small number of iron ore workers in Western Australia to vote on the two agreements before trying to roll out the same pacts to its coal mining workforce in Queensland and New South Wales.

Paid $50K less

This meant some labour hire workers were allegedly paid between $30,000 and $50,000 a year less than their permanently employed BHP counterparts at coal operations even though they wore BHP uniforms and performed the same work. Other benefits like workplace accident compensation and annual pay rises were also not included.

“BHP has made a mockery of our enterprise bargaining system [as] not a single coal miner covered by these agreements had the chance for a say over the terms of their employment,” CFMEU national president Tony Maher said in a public statement.

“Outsourcing the workforce to its own shonky labour hire companies, while giving them BHP shirts and calling them part of the family, is a new low for the mining industry … the Operations Services agreements simply do not reflect [modern] workplace standards in coal mining.”

Direct employment

Maher would like the proponent to consider directly employing workers and offering all the benefits that come with it.

“We are calling on BHP to start treating its Operations Services workforce with respect by employing them directly on coal industry pay and conditions,” he said.

Counter messaging

BHP responded to recent criticism by publishing positive stories about current Operation Services employees who used to work in other industries, including technical maintenance specialist Amanda Miller who gave up her finance job in aged care to work in resources.

“While I was completely ‘green’ to the mining industry, the training and support I have received from Operation Services has been second to none,” she said in a public statement.

“One of the best parts of this role is the flexibility. Working a seven day on and seven day off roster has allowed me to enrol in a university bridging course part-time so I can start pursuing these goals.”

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