Coal miners strike another legal blow against the ’permanent casual’ labour hire rort

Published: 15 Feb 2021

The Mining and Energy Union has struck yet another powerful legal blow against Australia’s ‘permanent casual’ labour hire rort, with a big win in the Federal Court for former employees of the Sub-Zero labour hire firm.

The employees of Sub-Zero worked as permanents, but were engaged under a contract that described their employment as casual and offered a flat hourly rate of pay. This rate was claimed to incorporate a 25 per cent casual loading. When Sub-Zero went into insolvency its employees made claims under the Fair Entitlements Guarantee (FEG) scheme. FEG recognised the workers were permanent, and not casual, but withheld the 25 per cent casual loading from their claims.

The Mining and Energy Union has fought this through the courts, culminating in today’s Federal Court ruling that it is wrong to consider the 25 per cent casual loading as an offset of the rights these workers had as permanent employees.

“This is yet another powerful legal blow to the shameful ’permanent casual’ labour hire rort in this country,” CFMEU Mining and Energy Northern District President Peter Jordan.

“It’s a fantastic victory for these mine workers who are now going to be tens of thousands of dollars better off on average. And we’ve also established a precedent that will apply to future labour hire companies that go into insolvency.

“This Federal Court victory follows on from our landmark Skene and Rossato victories that found the ‘permanent casual’ labour hire rort to be invalid. The Morrison Government should take the hint.

“The courts have been loud and clear. In Australia, if you work somewhere permanently and predictably, then you’re a permanent. That entitles you to a package of rights and conditions. Employers can’t label you as a casual to strip you of those rights.

“The Morrison Government, instead of trying to legalise the rort through its IR Omnibus bill, should now move to stamp the practice out.

“Mining companies in Australia can continue to make extremely healthy profits without resorting to these mean and tricky games. There’s no justification for their rort aside from base greed.

“Any decent Australian Government would now recognise the legal position, recognise the moral position, and tell employers the gig is up.

“If the government refuses to wake up, however, our union will keep fighting to ensure permanent workers are recognised as permanents and given the rights and conditions they deserve.”