Fed up casual miner delivers petition to Landry’s door
THE MEDIA outnumbered protesters at a rally on Tuesday against what mineworkers and union representatives described as “the permanent casual rort”.
But the half dozen workers spoke of behalf of about a thousand others named in a document delivered to Federal MP Michelle Landry’s door.
A Mining and Energy union (CFMEU) representative said mine workers, family members and community members in Capricornia had contacted Ms Landry’s office as part of the Protect Casual Miners campaign but received no response.
Ms Landry responded that, while her office responded to individual emails from her constituency, they didn’t have the resources to field chain emails.
Chad Stokes, who has worked under a casual contract for nearly seven years, delivered the paper petition, saying that casual miners were asking for the same deal “as the bloke working beside you”.
It was alleged that full-time workers were being replaced by casuals, and that there were mines in Central Queensland entirely staffed by casual workers.
Mr Stokes joined CFMEU representatives in urging the Federal Government to back away from a higher court challenge which, the union said, favoured mining and labour hire companies over so-called casual workers.
Federal Labor Senator Murray Watt said it was a disgrace the government was spending “taxpayers’ money on lawyers” to deny mining workers their rights.
The challenge follows the Federal Court decision in May this year that ongoing workers – previously deemed casual and paid a loading as such – were eligible to leave entitlements on a par with permanent workers’.
In a recorded response to the rally – which she said was designed to intimidate her office staff - Ms Landry referenced the casual loading and said the implications of businesses having to back-pay would cripple industries already afflicted by COVID-19.
“Every business has a budget and, if you have to go back five or six years and back-pay holiday leave… companies have told me they might as well close the door now, they can’t afford it,” she said.
“People already received a very generous loading in lieu of holiday and sick pay; they can’t get it twice, it’s unacceptable.”
But Mr Watt said the loading – reportedly about 25 per cent – “didn’t go anywhere near” compensating long time casuals missing out on job security.
He cited a Queensland miner who couldn’t take his child to hospital because he couldn’t get a day off.
“It’s un-Australian,” Senator Watt said.
He also claimed labour hire workers were so concerned about losing pay they didn’t complain about unsafe working conditions.
And that, during COVID-19, it was more important than ever that people could avail themselves of sick leave and stay home if they were unwell.
“The LNP has turned a blind eye; they encourage the big mining companies to go on exploiting people,” he said.
“They talk about how much they like coal but what they really mean is they like big mining companies.”
Ms Landry said she was a “massive advocate” for more permanent contracts in the mining industry, without which families couldn’t get the home loans to move into regional areas.
“Although a lot of people actually like being a casual and getting the money upfront,” she said.
“It suits their lifestyle more.”
She described the Labor and Greens as “hypocritical”, having voted down a proposal put forward before the last election that workers could transition to permanent contracts after 12 months.
But Mr Watt argued that LNP had “slipped in” an ineffectual piece of legislation during the election’s “dying days” and had subsequently let it lapse.
“All it did was give someone the right to ask to be made permanent after 12 months,” he said.
“There was no guarantee they would be heard and no right of appeal.”