31 May, 2023

New campaign to target labour hire loopholes in the mining industry

Do you or do you know someone who works in the mining industry who has or could be affected by labour hire loopholes?

New campaign to target labour hire loopholes in the mining industry - feature photo

The Mining and Energy Union (MEU) has launched a campaign to support the Federal Government’s proposed Same Job Same Pay laws for labour hire workers and challenge mining company scare campaigns. 

 The campaign will continue until the new laws pass Parliament. 

 MEU General Secretary Grahame Kelly said that despite mining company fear-mongering, Same Job Same Pay laws would be good for the industry. 

 “Mining companies are notorious for throwing their weight around when governments propose changes requiring them to act in the community’s best interests. 

“But Same Job Same Pay will be a positive for mining because it will end a rort affecting the workers and regional communities that sustain the industry. 

“Same Job Same Pay will improve wages and conditions for labour hire workers and prevent them being treated as second class citizens. It will strengthen collective bargaining by ensuring companies stick to their end of the bargain. And it will be great for regional communities who lose out when big employers cut wages for half the workforce.”

Mr Kelly said that over the past decade, big mining companies have replaced thousands of good, permanent mining jobs with insecure, lower-paid labour hire jobs, cutting wages while their profits have grown. 

He said Same Job Same Pay laws would close the loophole that allows companies to avoid paying the wages and conditions negotiated under site Enterprise Agreements by outsourcing jobs to labour hire companies paying barely above the legal minimum. 

The practice means that on many mine sites, labour hire workers are paid from $30,000 to $50,000 a year less than permanent workers for doing the same job. Workers in other industries including transport and manufacturing are also affected. 

“We know that workers in industries apart from mining are also the victim of labour hire loopholes, being paid less than permanent employees performing the same job. 

“We encourage all workers who want to end this rort to get on board and help make sure Same Job Same Pay becomes a reality.” 

The campaign was officially launched at Parliament House in Canberra today (May 31), where a delegation of MEU coal mineworkers briefed MPs about the misuse of labour hire and the need for Same Job Same Pay laws. The campaign will include events in regional areas in the months ahead.

Labour hire is widespread in mining

  • There are no nationally consistent figures on labour hire vs permanent employment in the mining industry but 40-50% is a conservative estimate.  

  • Figures from NSW Coal Services show that 38.6% of employees in NSW coal mines are labour hire / contractors rather than direct employees of mine operators. 

  • Labour hire workers are a majority of the workforce in the Queensland coal industry. The 2021 Queensland Coal Mining Board of Inquiry heard evidence that the proportion of directly employed mineworkers fell from 94% in 1996, to 65% in 2002 and 45% (open cut) and 48% (underground) in 2017, with union estimates that direct employment has declined further still. 

  • It is very difficult to get true rates of casualisation in the mining industry because labour hire companies are not included in official employment data on the mining industry. 

  • Casual employment is still widespread, however labour hire companies are also using alternative arrangements like fixed term contracts. Permanent employment with labour hire companies is still insecure, as contracts can be replaced at any time.


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