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Mining giant ‘self reports’ thousands of underpaid workers

BHP mine worker
Mine worker

A resources producer turned itself in for undercutting employees for more than a decade.

BHP recently confessed to underpaying 170,000 public holiday leave days to tens of thousands of Port Hedland workers since the year 2010.

“There are approximately 28,500 affected current and former employees with an average of six leave days in total that have been incorrectly deducted from affected employees over this 13 year period,” a spokesperson said in a public statement.

“BHP has self-reported to the Fair Work Ombudsman.”

The contractual “error with the employment entity” also impacted up to 3420 OZ Minerals (OZL) team members who will soon become BHP employees.

They are based at the following newly acquired BHP operations:

  • Prominent Hill, 650km northwest of Adelaide
  • Carrapateena, 160km north of Port Augusta
  • West Musgrave, 500km west of Uluru
  • Carajás East and West, Brazil
  • Gurupi Province, Brazil.

The shortfall prompted Protiviti’s appointment to comprehensively review the proponent’s payroll systems. Early estimates indicate workers could be owed up to US$280 million (A$425.6M) before tax including superannuation and interest. This equates to about US$9824.56 (A$14,938.06) per head.

The employer promised to contact those affected “as soon as possible”, establish both a telephone hotline and website, and provide updates during its full year results announcement in August 2023.

“We are sorry to all current and former employees impacted by these errors. This is not good enough and falls short of the standards we expect at BHP. We are working to rectify and remediate these issues, with interest, as quickly as possible,” BHP Australia president Geraldine Slattery said.

The Mining and Energy Union (MEU) revealed BHP came clean after the Federal Court of Australia ruled the Operations Services labour hire entity cannot treat public holidays as regular days without first giving employees the opportunity to refuse to work.

“BHP has been sprung ripping workers off by hundreds of millions of dollars,” MEU general secretary Grahame Kelly said in a public statement.

“We will make sure all our affected members receive every cent they are owed.”

The Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU) believes outsourcing can create substandard employment conditions.

“The same company has been exploiting labour hire loopholes to drive down wages and conditions for workers on their sites,” ACTU president Michele O’Neil said according to News Limited.

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