QMEB ยป Former mine worker wrong on ‘systematic exploitation’ says industry body
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Former mine worker wrong on ‘systematic exploitation’ says industry body

Senator Malcolm Roberts
Senator Malcolm Roberts

A trade union has rejected allegations from a former coal miner who claims the industry body approved terms and conditions of employment that caused some workers to earn much less than the award rate.

The Construction, Forestry, Maritime, Mining and Energy Union (CFMEU) dismissed remarks from One Nation Senator Malcolm Roberts that accused the union of helping at least one mining giant underpay workers.

40 per cent pay gap

Roberts, who was formerly the general manager of Rio Tinto’s Gordonstone Coal Mine, hopes to investigate allegations from anonymous mine workers who accused the union of working with both BHP and labour hire firm Chandler Macleod to pay workers 40 per cent less than the black coal mining award rate.

“[CFMEU] has signed off on these union enterprise agreements that are 40 per cent under the pay rate of the black coal mining award,” the senator told the Hunter Valley Today program on 2NM Radio. “BHP as the mine operator, Chandler Macleod as the employer and the CFMMEU as the recipient of these mining dues [or] subscriptions have let them down and we need to get to the bottom of this.”

‘Ridiculous’ claims dismissed

CFMEU rejected the claims as “ridiculous”, “politically motivated misinformation” and stressed that casual labour hire business models have indeed led to bad outcomes for workers and there is no “systematic exploitation” of casuals across the industry. The union also took credit for BHP’s decision to make several casual workers permanent, even though many of those regular positions had become vacant over a period of time.

“CFMEU has campaigned extensively on the issue of the labour hire rip off including a television ad campaign specifically targeting BHP and the Operations Services model they are deploying at Mt Arthur Coal Mine,” a CFMEU spokesperson told QMEB. “This has started to bear fruit with indications that BHP is set to employ more permanent workers at Mt Arthur.”

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Roberts, who used to be a mining union member, maintains CFMEU has really “done deals” that have caused damage.

“It is the CFMMEU in the Hunter Valley has let these people down,” he said. “They know that you cannot employ people on a casual basis on black coal production. It is not consistent with the award.”

CFMEU suggested instead of blaming the union, the senator should propose legislative amendments to “bad laws” that enable mining companies to pay workers less.

“Unfortunately, we cannot stop the Fair Work Commission [from] approving bad agreements,” the spokesperson said.

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