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Mining giant loses labour hire case at Fair Work

BHP mine worker
Mine worker

A global resources company lost an industrial relations battle with an industry group because mine workers employed through the in house labour hire subsidiary would allegedly be worse off.

The Fair Work Commission (FWC) has confirmed two enterprise agreements from BHP’s in-house labour hire provider Operations Services fail to pay affected workers more than the relevant mining industry and black coal mining industry award rates.

Failed better off test

The Construction, Forestry, Maritime, Mining and Energy Union (CFMEU) believes the agreements should not have been approved by the proponent because the terms allegedly breach National Employment Standards under the Fair Work Act.

BHP did not take a variety of pre-approval steps and the contracts failed to pass the better off overall test according to the final decision on the proponent’s appeal.

“Operations Services has always been a strategy of BHP’s to drive down wages and conditions in the mining industry,” CFMEU national president Tony Maher said in a public statement. “These agreements are dodgy and the decision to approve them was dodgy and it is good to see that recognised by the full bench.”

Paid up to $50K less

The remarks came after the union previously claimed some labour hire workers were paid between $30,000 and $50,000 a year less than their permanently employed BHP counterparts at coal operations even though they wear BHP uniforms and perform the same work.

Labour hire staff were allegedly given no wage increases or accident pay throughout their four-year terms, and also could be relocated to other operations at any time under the agreement that took effect in December 2019.

The union is asking the proponent to revert to its previous enterprise agreements and offer both permanent and labour hire workers the same rate of pay.

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“BHP already has perfectly good enterprise agreements in place at its coal operations and their Operations Services employees deserve the same pay and conditions as those directly employed workers alongside them,” Maher said. “Our message to Operations Services workers is that we are committed to bringing your pay and conditions up to par with BHP employees. Same work, same pay.”

The union expects the full bench of FWC to rehear applications for approval of the agreements.

Click here to read the full decision.

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