Generic Pic - Suzanna/Clarke 15 Dec 1998  Newlands Coal Mine Mining industry qld machinery truck
Generic Pic - Suzanna/Clarke 15 Dec 1998 Newlands Coal Mine Mining industry qld machinery truck

Fair Work backs union, rejects mining giant’s agreements

A MULTINATIONAL mining giant will go back to the drawing board after the Fair Work Commission rejected two workplace agreements for its labour hire workforce.

The Fair Work Commission ruled that BHP’s Operations Services agreements were not genuinely agreed to by the employees and therefore were incapable of being approved.

“[We are not satisfied] that the production agreement or the maintenance agreement were genuinely agreed to by the employees covered by the agreements,” vice president Adam Hatcher, deputy president Anna Booth and deputy president Alan Colman said in the decision.

The trio said BHP failed to comply with the Fair Work Act by not reaching a formal agreement with the workers.

CFMEU Mining and Energy Queensland president Stephen Smyth said the union welcomed the decision and it would give thousands of Central Queensland coal miners the chance to negotiate better working conditions.

“It’s well overdue and will at least bring some dignity and fairness back into the BHP coal operations with that decision yesterday,” he said.

“At the moment we have 2000 workers who work under the Operational Services agreements across the country who are on less money, less conditions and are being treated unfairly. We think a bit of fairness is required.

“We’re [the employees] representatives, we’ve done the work to have the legal argument and get it thrown out, now the real work comes down to BHP Coal wanting to sit down and negotiate with those workers and their representatives.”

Mr Smyth claimed BHP’s Operations Services workforce was being treated as poor cousins of permanent BHP coal miners, with much lower pay and worse conditions.

“BHP says its Operations Services workers are part of the BHP family. But under these agreements they are paid $50,000 less per year, have no access to conditions like accident pay, can be transferred anywhere in Australia at the company’s whim,” he said.

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

Workers’ employment would not be affected by the agreements being found invalid, but they now had the opportunity to negotiate a fairer Enterprise Agreement, Mr Smyth said.

BHP vice president Operations Services, Mark Swinnerton said the department would take time to consider the findings of the Fair Work Commission before determining its next steps.

“We note the decision by the Fair Work Commission and are considering any implications,” he said.

“We have received nearly 84,000 applications for Operations Services roles since we began in April 2018 – this is a clear endorsement of how attractive the offering is to people right across Australia.”

He said Operations Services offered market competitive rates, which were well above the relevant awards and compared 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,” Mr Swinnerton said.

“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.

“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.

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

CFMEU would like to see BHP work with the employees under the agreement to develop a fairer agreement.

Mr Smyth said the Operational Services agreement needed an overall review to bring it up to scratch.

“[BHP] need to accept that the umpires ruled against them and get on with business – working with their employees and their representatives to get a fair and decent deal.”