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Multinational coal producer will back pay workers $3M after Fair Work ruling

Peabody Energy workers
Peabody Energy workers

One of the largest private sector coal companies in the world has been ordered to make about $3 million in back payments to mine workers in Central Queensland.

Fair Work Australia (FWA) has ruled Peabody Energy owes some two hundred workers as much as $15,000 each at the Coppabella Coal Mine, 138 km southwest of Mackay.

No such thing as preparing

FWA agreed with the Construction, Forestry, Maritime, Mining and Energy Union (CFMMEU) that a new requirement introduced in 2016 for workers to attend the site office 15 minutes before their shift officially begins to prepare and be transported should have included extra pay.

According to CFMMEU, workers who started at 6am or 6pm had to arrive at the main administration building t0 swipe in, collect personal protective equipment, be briefed on the nature and location of work, and be transported to the on-site pre-start briefing.

Many employees were not paid for the 15 minutes prior to the beginning of their shift, prompting Fair Work Commission deputy president IC Asbury to clarify the staff were actually working when they were performing tasks at the employer’s direction should therefore be paid.

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‘Should pay them’

“They have commenced work at the main administration building and are being transported to the site for a pre-start meeting and then commence operational duties 10 minutes earlier than they would if the pre-start meetings were conducted in the main administration building,” Asbury said in a public statement. “In order to obtain that additional machine operating time, the employer requires employees to be at the main administration building at 5.45am/pm and it should pay them from that point.”

Asbury also dismissed any suggestion the workers should not be paid while travelling to and from the work site.

“Employees are not engaging in the private activity of travelling to work,” she said.

Union takes credit

CFMMEU district president Stephen Smyth welcomed the positive outcome for the workers.

“We have had a great $3 million win at Coppabella,” he said. “Everyone who receives the payment should take a moment to thank a union member.”

The proponent has been provided 21 days to appeal the decision.

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