Published: 1 Dec 2021
A bill introduced to Federal Parliament would end the pay discrimination between labour hire coal miners doing the same job as permanent employees but being paid less.
Labor leader Anthony Albanese introduced the private members’ bill – the Fair Work Amendment (Same Job Same Pay) Bill 2021 – on 23 November, but it was immediately opposed by the Morrison Government.
One Liberal MP, Paul Fletcher from Sydney’s leafy North Shore, said labour hire exploitation was a ‘made up issue’ and that less than 2% of workers were employed through labour hire. He’s obviously never seen what goes on in coal mines.
Another Liberal MP, James Stevens from inner city Adelaide, insisted that statistics showed that labour hire and casuals in the mining sector are paid higher than average: ‘so this is a solution looking for a problem that doesn’t exist’.
His statistics clearly aren’t based on talking to any real workers – it’s common knowledge that the widespread replacement of permanent jobs with casual labour hire has driven down wages, especially in mining.
Labour hire workers typically earn 30 to 40% less than permanent coal miners employed directly by the mine operator.
Labor’s bill would make it unlawful for workers employed through labour hire companies to be paid less than workers employed directly, whether by big mining companies or any other employer.
As members would know, the Mining and Energy Union has invested heavily over many years in changing the law to prevent the business model that has seen permanent jobs shrink at the expense of casual labour hire.
Our groundbreaking wins in the WorkPac (Skene and Rossato) Federal Court matters meant coal miners could no longer lawfully be employed as casuals if the nature of their work was permanent and on-going. Many current and former casuals also became eligible to claim backpaid entitlements.
However, we were all gutted when One Nation backed the Morrison Government bowed to business demands to overturn these wins, meaning mining companies could continue replacing permanent jobs with lower paid casuals and exploited casuals were denied the compensation they deserve.
When it comes to restoring rights and permanent jobs in the coal industry – and across many industries – we now need to change the government.
The ‘Same Job Same Pay’ laws proposed by Labor would end the business model that provides an economic incentive for companies to undercut the wages of workers in permanent jobs who have been able to improve their position through collective bargaining.
Having permanent jobs is essential for mineworkers to organise and stand up for better pay and conditions.
Anthony Albanese’s speech in parliament about Labor’s ‘Same job, same pay’ bill shows that he understands how big mining and labour hire companies are taking advantage of weak workplace laws to drive down pay and conditions in the coal mining industry.
He has taken the time to listen to coal miners and we encourage all members to take 10 minutes to listen to him speak on ‘Same job, same pay’.