Aug 21, 2019

Union class action takes aim at coal job casualisation

Union class action takes aim at coal job casualisation

The CFMEU has filed a class action against labour hire firm Workpac for unpaid entitlements for coal miners throughout Australia whom it says were misclassified as casuals.

The class action, filed by national law firm Slater & Gordon on behalf of the CFMEU Mining and Energy Division, will aim to recover entitlements owing to about 600 union members employed by WorkPac since 2013.

It follows last year’s Federal Court ruling in the matter of WorkPac v Skene, which found that casual coal miners in regular on-going employment with advance fixed rosters were not legally casual workers and were entitled to paid leave.

The lead applicant is Hunter Valley coal miner, Ben Renyard, who worked at Mount Thorley Warkworth mine through WorkPac for nearly three years.

Despite doing the same work, on the same roster under the same supervisors as permanent employees, Mr Renyard was one of a majority in his crew employed casually on a flat hourly rate, with no sick or annual leave, and no job security.

“The reality of coal mining these days is that the only jobs available are casual labour hire. I hoped it would be a stepping stone to a permanent job,” Mr Renyard said.

“At Mount Thorley Workworth, I worked on a crew alongside permanent workers on the same annual roster with the same supervisor, but I got less pay and no entitlements like annual leave or sick leave. As a casual you are treated like a second-class citizen.

“I hope this class action puts the pressure on mining companies to stop exploiting casual workers.”

About 600 CFMEU members have currently registered their interest in joining the action. The union says their unpaid entitlements are estimated to be worth around $12 million.