Morrison Government backs mining giants who exploit casual labour hire

Published: 6 May 2019

Federal Government intervention in a court case to wind back casual rights will give big mining companies the green light to keep exploiting casual labour hire workers, the CFMEU said today.

The full Federal Court will this week hear the matter of WorkPac v Rossato, a case brought by labour hire giant WorkPac designed to wind back the court’s prior decision in the matter of casual coal miner Paul Skene. The court awarded Mr Skene backpaid annual leave on his departure from a Rio Tinto mine on the grounds his job was not genuinely casual.

Scott Morrison’s Jobs Minister Kelly O’Dwyer, who is quitting politics at the election, has intervened in the case with a submission strongly objecting to ripped off casuals being compensated for unpaid leave entitlements, dismissing it as ‘double-dipping’.

CFMEU Mining and Energy General Secretary Grahame Kelly said the Morrison Government was showing its true colours by backing mining bosses over casual workers.

“Labour hire bosses didn’t like the court blowing the whistle on their misuse of casuals in mining, so they are trying to undermine the Skene decision. The Morrison Government is backing them all the way.

“This Government has not only stood by and allowed the widespread casualisation of permanent jobs, it is now using the courts to try and stop casuals who have been ripped off under dodgy, unlawful employment arrangements from being compensated.

“Let’s be clear, there is no double-dipping. Where casuals have been legitimately employed and compensated they would have no claim.

“The Skene decision is relevant in coal mining, where casual labour hire workers like Paul Skene work regular full-time hours on advance rosters but are paid less than the permanent workers next to them, as well as missing out on paid leave and having no job security.

“By claiming legitimate compensation is an undeserved ‘windfall’, this government is showing how completely out of touch it is with the concerns of working Australians.”

Despite employer rhetoric about the Skene decision affecting small business, it is most relevant to mining multinationals. WorkPac supplies labour to global mining giants like BHP, Glencore and AngloAmerican.

The CFMEU will defend the principle of the Skene decision and intends to pursue claims for mineworkers falsely classified as casuals.

However, stronger laws to prevent the ‘permanent casual’ labour hire rort are needed, said Mr Kelly.

    •    Federal Court hearings in WorkPac v Rossato will take place on 7 and 8 May in Melbourne.
    •    The case of WorkPac v Skene was run over four years by the CFMEU on behalf of coal miner Paul Skene, with a decision in August 2018.
    •    Paul Skene worked at two large coal mines in Central Queensland as a Fly In Fly Out worker, with a full-time roster 12 months in advance. He was employed by WorkPac as a casual but under direct supervision of mine operator Rio Tinto.
    •    Skene’s argument was that his work arrangement did not fit the legal definition of a ‘casual’ and the Full Federal Court agreed. He was therefore owed annual leave entitlements under the National Employment Standards.
    •    The facts of WorkPac v Skene are unlikely to be replicated in other industries where casual employment is closer to the legal definition: irregular, intermittent and unpredictable.
    •    There is no capacity for employees to double dip on casual loading and leave entitlements if they are correctly classified, because the casual loading only applies to true casuals.
    •    Casual labour hire workers now make up to half or more of the workforce at Australian coal mines. They work on the same rosters and perform the same work as permanent workers, but are paid approximately 30% less, with no job security or entitlements. 

Media contact Jackie Woods 0414 241 483