November 12, 2022
In a major win for the rights of labour hire mineworkers, the Federal Court has determined that BHP Coal took unlawful adverse action against a coal mineworker after she refused to operate her truck due safety concerns.
In a long-running case brought by the Mining and Energy Union, the Federal Court found that BHP Coal took adverse action against mineworker Kim Star by demobilising her position and excluding her from the mine after she refused to operate in a poorly-lit area at Goonyella Riverside mine in Central Queensland in 2017.
The Fair Work Commission previously found that Ms Star had been unfairly dismissed by her employer WorkPac, who dismissed her three days after BHP demobilised her position. Even after the Fair Work Commission ordered her reinstatement, BHP fought her return to the mine.
MEU Queensland President Stephen Smyth said that Ms Star’s case showed the precarious position of labour hire employees in the mining industry and the Federal Court decision exposed hypocrisy and injustice in the mining industry.
“Our member Kim Star was a typical worker in the Queensland coal industry, working for BHP for years as a contractor through WorkPac.
“When she refused to operate in unsafe conditions – as she has the legal right and the obligation to do – BHP said they didn’t want her anymore and WorkPac promptly sacked her.
“Both the Fair Work Commission and the Federal Court have now ruled in Ms Star’s favour. Today’s decision underlines the reality that multinationals like BHP like using labour hire workers because they are easy to get rid of. They ultimately call the shots when it comes to employment arrangements on their mines.
“Our union has been proud to back Ms Star and we continue to be impressed by her courage and determination.
“Because she has stood up to BHP, it will now be much harder for them to treat their contractors as disposable labour. It’s a fantastic win.”