A photo showing a mine wall collapse at Anglo American's Dawson coal mine near Moura in Central Queensland in 2013.
A photo showing a mine wall collapse at Anglo American's Dawson coal mine near Moura in Central Queensland in 2013.

Mining union slams two key elements of IR bill

The mining union has slammed the industrial relations bill currently before parliament aimed at stamping out the “permanent casual” labour hire situation rampant across the mining industry.

Two key elements of the package were the focus of the union’s complaints, general president Tony Maher said.

The elements are; a fair, objective definition of casual work that looks at the reality of working conditions and not just the contract at point of hire; and “same job same pay” for labour hire workers meaning companies can’t pay labour hire workers less than direct employees doing the same job.

The mining union was formed last year when they split from the CFMEU.

Mr Maher said these two measures were necessary in quashing a business model embraced by mining companies to drive down workers’ wages and conditions.

McKell Institute research found half a billion dollars per year in economic activity is ripped out of mining regions, including Central Queensland, from widespread use of lower paid casual labour hire workers in the industry.

The union says mining companies are exploiting workers.

“Mining companies have exploited weak workplace laws for the best part of a decade, replacing many thousands of good permanent jobs with insecure casual labour hire jobs,” said Mr Maher.

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Anglo American's Dawson Coal Mine on the outskirts of Moura. Photo: Kerri-Anne Mesner
Anglo American's Dawson Coal Mine on the outskirts of Moura. Photo: Kerri-Anne Mesner

“Workers have been speaking out loud and clear about this problem and it is well understood in mining regions, where families are left without the ability to secure home loans, take holidays together and build their lives in a way afforded by secure work.

“Anthony Albanese has spoken to mine workers and heard their concerns about the corrosive effect of labour hire.

“The Morrison Government have made noises about fixing the problem but have instead proposed laws that would make it worse.

“The IR Omnibus Bill currently before the parliament includes an unfair definition of casual based purely on the label in your contract, not the reality of your work arrangements.

“And it includes weak, unenforceable casual conversion provisions that employers can easily ignore.

“We urge Senators not to pass the IR Omnibus Bill in its current form.

“We need real solutions to the casual labour hire rort in mining and we welcome Labor’s strong policies to address it.”

Some parties have compared the Coalition’s IR Omnibus bill to WorkChoices, which attracted widespread controversy and criticism when introduced in 2005.

The bill was introduced into parliament on December 9.

An Attorney-General’s Department spokesman said The Fair Work Amendment (Supporting Australia’s Jobs and Economic Recovery) Bill 2020 is still before the parliament.

“It has not yet passed either house,” the spokesman said.

“The Senate Education and Employment Legislation Committee is currently holding an inquiry into the provisions of the Bill.

“Submissions to the inquiry closed on 5 February 2021 and the Committee is currently holding hearings.

“It will provide its report on the Bill by 12 March 2021.”

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