Justice delayed for mineworkers unlawfully employed as casuals

Published: 26 Nov 2020

A High Court appeal against a landmark decision on the nature of casual work will further unfairly delay justice for mineworkers twice found by the Federal Court to have been employed unlawfully as casuals, the Miners’ Union said today.

Labour hire company WorkPac was today granted special leave to appeal the Federal Court’s WorkPac v Rossato decision.

WorkPac v Rossato followed and reinforced the earlier landmark WorkPac v Skene decision – with both finding that casual coal miners working full-time hours on long-term advance rosters were not genuine casuals and were therefore owed leave entitlements.

The Federal Government supported WorkPac’s application on the grounds that compensating unlawfully employed casuals would be an unfair burden on business.

The High Court appeal delays resolution of a class action being brought by CFMEU Mining and Energy for compensation for members unlawfully employed as casual mineworkers by WorkPac.

CFMEU Mining and Energy General President Tony Maher said today’s decision to grant special leave for an appeal by WorkPac to the High Court was a blow for casual mineworkers that would delay justice already long overdue.

“The Federal Court has twice confirmed that the widespread ‘permanent casual’ rort in mining is not only unfair, it is also unlawful,” said Mr Maher.

“The model embraced enthusiastically by big mining and labour hire companies is to replace good permanent jobs with lower-paid casual jobs and it’s a straight-out scam.

“Casual mineworkers do the same work on the same rosters, but they are paid about 30% less and have no job security or leave entitlements.

“Employers have put forward hysterical claims about the cost to business. But this toxic employment practice also comes at a staggering cost to workers, families and communities.”

An analysis by the McKell Institute released this year found that about $1 billion in economic activity is lost to coal mining regions each year due to the replacement of permanent mining jobs with casual labour hire mining jobs, like those supplied by WorkPac.

CFMEU Mining and Energy will intervene in the proceedings to defend the findings of the Rossato and Skene Federal Court judgments.

“We know that WorkPac has the full force of the business lobby behind them to overturn our important wins for casual mineworkers,” said Mr Maher.

“But our Union is committed to keeping up the fight until we have defeated this toxic work model.”