A major resources producer failed in its legal bid to compel labour hire employees to perform duties during national celebrations.
Staff should not have to work public holidays without having the option of taking time off. This is the conclusion the Federal Court of Australia reached after hearing that BHP allegedly forced 85 Operations Services employees to complete 12.5 hour shifts on both Christmas and Boxing days back in 2019.
The Mining and Energy Union (MEU) successfully argued that affected staff members should have received extra pay for those hours, or had the option to go on leave. Requiring them to keep performing duties as part of their regular roster allegedly contravened the Fair Work Act.
“The requirement that there be a ‘request’ rather than a unilateral command, prompts the capacity for discussion, negotiation and a refusal,” judges said in their final decision according to the Australian Associated Press.
“As a result of this decision mining companies and all employers will need to be more respectful of employees’ rights to enjoy public holidays and come up with ways to provide choice,” MEU general president Tony Maher added.
The proponent has less than 28 days to appeal the decision.
Meanwhile, the Federal Government is considering whether to count more casual work hours towards long service leave.
The new Protecting Worker Entitlements Bill proposes amending the Coal Long Service Leave Act to lift the number of weekly hours counted towards long service leave to 35.
“Casuals have been short-changed because there has been no provision to average out the 35 ordinary hours over the roster cycle, as is the case for permanent employees,” MEU general secretary Grahame Kelly said in a public statement.