BHP are set to face a class law suit for its treatment of casual workers.
BHP are set to face a class law suit for its treatment of casual workers.

BHP to face class action lawsuit

HUNDREDS of "second class workers" who have been severely underpaid for their work at some of the biggest mines in Australia will hit back at BHP today with a class action law suit.

The class action, by Canberra-based Adero Law firm, alleges that BHP-operated mines took advantage of contract labour-hire companies which were engaging workers as "casual" rather than permanent employees, avoiding the obligation to pay proper wages and entitlements in accordance with the Black Coal Industry Mining Award 2010 and The Fair Work Act 2009.

"The class action, the first of several planned class actions, will reveal an industry-wide problem" the law firm's principal, Rory Markham said.

"Big mining companies have increasingly shirked their responsibilities, via third party labour hire companies, to pay workers their minimum entitlements."

The class action alleges that labour-hire companies were paying their workers substantially less than the coal operations' permanent employees. 

The first two actions, in the Federal Court of Australia, will be run on behalf of at least 800 workers from the Mount Arthur Coal Mine, in the Hunter Valley in NSW, against a BHP entity as well as labour hire companies Chandler Macleod and TESA. 

Lead claimant Simon Turner alleges that he was engaged to work a regular, predictable roster set over 12 months in advance and to complete the same job as permanent workers on site, yet was denied minimum entitlements including leave and holiday pay. 

The actions are backed by Augusta Ventures Limited, an international litigation funder who is the largest funder by volume in the UK, and who has had a presence in Australia since 2017. 

The conditions at Mount Arthur Coal Mine were not unique to the region or the big mining industry.

Adero Law is investigating further actions against a number of big mining companies in the region, including Glencore and its associated recruitment companies: Programmed and Skilled, as well as Coal and Allied, and its recruitment company SubZero. 

Statistics reveal that the mining labour force has suffered increasing casualisation over the past decade, with multiple mines now classifying over 40 per cent of their workforce as casuals.

Mr Markham said this is yet another chapter in the increasing loss of job security for Australian workers and the loss of all the benefits that permanent classification affords. 

"The increasing casualisation and loss of job security has caused Australian families to suffer," he said.

"In an industry where the profits keep going up, the savings aren't being passed on to the workers."

"These actions call on big mining to pay its debt to the Australian communities who have assisted big mining to become so profitable." 

Further actions are being considered on behalf of workers against big mining to recover unpaid superannuation due to those workers under the Superannuation Guarantee (Administration) Act 1992. 

Adero Law invites all casual miners throughout the Hunter Valley to be part of the actions. New miners are continuing to sign up to the action daily.