Reinstatement win: mining companies on notice to stop treating casuals as disposable

Published: 18 Sep 2018

Mining companies are on notice to stop treating casual labour hire workers as disposable after the Fair Work Commission (FWC) ordered the reinstatement of a worker ‘demobilised’ for no reason.

CFMEU Mining and Energy Queensland Vice President Mitch Hughes said the decision was a victory over widespread exploitation of casuals in the coal mining industry.

The FWC ordered mineworker Kim Star be reinstated to BHP’s Goonyella Riverside mine in central Queensland, after earlier finding she was unfairly dismissed by her labour hire employer WorkPac.

Ms Star had worked regular shifts on the same crew at Goonyella Riverside for four years as a casual before being informed by WorkPac her role was being demobilised. The court heard that BHP directed WorkPac to discontinue Ms Star’s employment at the open cut mine but gave no reason.

Ms Star’s circumstances were unfortunately common in the Queensland coal mining industry, said Mr Hughes.

“In many of our Queensland coal mines fewer than half the workforce is permanently employed, with the majority on casual arrangements through labour hire companies.

“These ‘casual’ jobs usually aren’t casual at all, with regular shifts and long-term rosters working side by side with permanent employees. However, they have no job security or entitlements.

“Mine operators prefer casual labour hire workers as they can be let go for no reason – like if it’s raining or they raise a safety concern.

“This decision puts mining companies on notice that they can no longer treat casual workers as disposable.

“Labour hire workers have rights and we will fight for them.”

Today’s decision comes close behind other recent court victories for CFMEU Mining and Energy challenging the ‘permanent casual’ mode of employment widespread in mining. This includes the Federal Court’s Workpac v Skene decision finding that workers in regular, long-term employment arrangements are entitled to paid leave, despite being classified as ‘casual’ by their employer.

Media contact:  John Hill 0412 197 079