Nov 13, 2020

Union win in Operations Services legal battle

Union win in Operations Services legal battle

A key mining union says BHP should apologise to its workforce after the full bench of the Fair Work Commission found two Operations Services agreements could not be approved.

However, the company maintains its Operations Services positions are an attractive offering with competitive rates.

Vice-president Operations Services Mark Swinnerton said the company noted the decision by the Fair Work Commission and was considering any implications.

CFMEU Mining and Energy President Tony Maher said the union had long argued ‘these tricky, toxic agreements’ belonged in the bin and that’s exactly where the Commission had finally put them with this week’s decision.

“Australian enterprise agreements are meant to set the terms and conditions at an enterprise, a workplace, or a site. But BHP thought they had found a clever way to circumvent the spirit of the law,” he said.

“BHP wanted to impose conditions from a different industry on coal miners in Queensland and NSW – and at the same time undercut its permanent workforce.

“The pay and conditions of the Operation Services agreements were far below the pay and conditions that exist for permanent coal miners on BHP’s sites that have been negotiated over decades.

“We are extremely pleased that Fair Work has accepted our arguments and found that these agreements are not legally valid.”

The union says the agreements undercut directly employed BHP coal miners by as much as $50,000, cut out crucial entitlements like accident pay and allowed workers to be transferred to any of the company’s mines anywhere in the country.

It said the ongoing legal challenge over the two Enterprise Agreements had seen BHP switch its Operations Services workforce to contracts reflecting the same pay and conditions.

The company says the most recent decision will not impact the number of roles, the security, or the terms and conditions of Operations Services employees’ roles.

“We would like to reassure our Operations Services team members that this decision does not impact the terms and conditions set out in their employment contracts,” Mr Swinnerton said.

“They can come to work tomorrow as usual and receive the benefits that they signed up for.”

Mr Swinnerton said the company had received nearly 84,000 applications for Operations Services roles since they began in April 2018.

“This is a clear endorsement of how attractive the offering is to people right across Australia,” he said.

“Operations Services offers market competitive rates, which are well above the relevant awards and compare favourably to others in the industry. Operators and maintainers earn more than $100,000, and have the added benefits of stability, paid parental leave, annual leave and sick leave, performance bonuses and access to the BHP Employee SharePlus share program.

“To date, Operations Services has permanently employed nearly 3500 people – half are from regional communities, a third are female and more than a tenth are Indigenous.

“Operations Services was established to provide an attractive option for people seeking the security of permanent employment with our company while at the same time giving BHP reliability and productivity outcomes, previously impacted by high levels of third party labour turnover.”

The CFMEU is now calling for BHP to engage in bargaining to give Operations Services workers a say over the terms and conditions of their employment, the same as the rest of its coal workforce.

The union says it is also taking legal action over Operations Services being required to work Christmas and Boxing Day with no choice or additional remuneration.