Labor IR package would stamp out ‘permanent casual’ rort

Published: 10 Feb 2021

Two key elements of Labor’s IR package announced today would stamp out the ‘permanent casual’ labour hire rort rampant across the mining industry, the Miners’ Union said today.

They 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.

These two measures are necessary for stamping out a business model embraced by mining companies to drive down workers’ wages and conditions, said General President Tony Maher.

Research by the McKell Institute published last year found that around a billion dollars a year in economic activity is lost to mining regions including the Hunter Valley and Central Queensland due to the widespread use of lower-paid casual labour hire workers in the mining industry.

In many coal mines, half or more of the workforce is labour hire, rather than directly employed by the mine operator. Labour hire contractors are generally casual and paid 30 to 40% less than direct, permanent employees, with no paid or annual leave.

Mr Maher said that the Union has fought hard against the casual labour hire business model, with important court wins including the Skene and Rossato Federal Court wins. However, legislative change is needed to make the practice unlawful.

“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.

“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 mineworkers 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.”