Minerals Council peddling misleading figures on permanent mining jobs

Published: 14 Apr 2022

Assertions made by the Minerals Council of Australia this week about rates of permanent mining jobs are misleading and cover up the rampant use of insecure labour hire across the industry, the Mining and Energy Union said today.

ABS figures on rates of casualisation in the mining industry don’t tell the full story because they exclude the large proportion of the workforce employed through labour hire companies.

The major labour hire companies like WorkPac, One Key and Programmed that dominate mining employment are categorised as belonging to the ‘Administrative and Support Services’ industry rather than Mining.

The lack of accurate data makes it difficult to assess true rates of casualisation in mining.  However there can be no question for anyone close to the mining industry that long-term casual employment has been the preferred employment model for labour hire companies in mining over the past decade – only challenged through union campaigning and legal action.

Data consistently shows that around half of the mining workforce are in casual or insecure labour hire work arrangements. Labour hire mineworkers are consistently paid around one-third less than permanent workers on site Enterprise Agreements. Even when full-time with the labour hire company, labour hire mining jobs are insecure as contracts can be chopped and changed at any moment.

Queensland’s Coal Mining Board of Inquiry (11.27-11.29) found that rates of direct permanent employment in the state’s coal industry had fallen from 94% in 1996 to less than half in 2017.

Data from Coal Long Service Leave shows an increase in casual hours worked between 2011 and 2019 and substantially lower hourly rates for casuals than permanent mineworkers.

Mining and Energy General President Tony Maher said:

“For anyone willing to look, there is data to show what is really happening in the industry. That is, that mining companies use outsourcing strategies to drive down wages, reduce job security and prevent workers from organising to improve their position.

“But for us, the best data is the experience of our members. Our members tell us that permanent workers are a shrinking minority on many crews, that there just aren’t any permanent roles offered any more, that labour hire workers are treated like second class citizens.

“Mining companies are raking in profits off sky-high coal prices at the moment and they can afford to provide secure, well-paid employment.

“The Minerals Council would be better off urging its members to fix the insecure work crisis in the industry rather than peddling misleading, hand-picked data.”

Fact sheet: Casuals in the mining industry