December 15, 2023
Mining giant BHP has been ordered to pay fines and compensation over unlawful treatment of two labour hire workers forced off its mine sites after raising safety concerns.
The Federal Court has in separate judgments ordered BHP to pay a total of $120,000 in penalties for contravening s340 of the Fair Work Act, which prevents adverse action being taken against employees exercising workplace rights.
The BHP Mitsubishi Alliance, which operates Queensland coal mines, was further ordered to compensate workers Kim Star and Daryl Meikle, whose cases were run by the Mining and Energy Union (MEU).
Ms Star was employed as a coal mineworker by Workpac at BHP’s Goonyella Riverside Mine and Mr Meikle was employed as a coal mineworker by Workpac at BHP’s Daunia Mine. In matters run by the MEU, both were found to have been unlawfully excluded from BHP sites after raising concerns about mine safety in 2017 and 2019 respectively.
Ms Star will receive $15,000 general damages compensation while Mr Meikle will receive $5,000 as general damages and the equivalent of six months’ pay.
MEU Queensland District President Mitch Hughes welcomed the orders and the resolution of the two long-running matters.
“These members have waited many years for justice and for BHP to be held to account. While the monetary amounts are small change for BHP, the legal black mark against them is an important victory for workers.
“The courts have found beyond doubt that BHP unlawfully excluded labour hire workers from their mine sites for exercising their rights.
“We often say that insecure work is bad for safety and here we have it in black and white. I thank Daryl Meikle and Kim Star for having the fortitude to stand up to the biggest player in the Queensland coal industry to defend the rights of labour hire workers.
“We believe these findings and fines against BHP will be a deterrent to treating labour hire workers as disposable. With Same Job Same Pay passing Federal Parliament last week, we can end the year knowing the tide is finally turning in favour of labour hire rights.”