December 13, 2020
BHP should apologise to its workforce, according to the coal mining union, after the full bench of the Fair Work Commission struck down the Big Australian’s attempt to impose dodgy enterprise agreements on its in-house labour hire workforce.
After a lengthy legal fight by CFMEU Mining and Energy, the Commission found two ‘Operations Services’ agreements were not genuinely agreed to and therefore were incapable of being approved.
“We’ve long said these tricky, toxic agreements belong in the bin and that’s exactly where the Commission has finally put them with this decision,” CFMEU Mining and Energy President Tony Maher said.
“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.
“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.
“BHP is hardly a newcomer to the industry. They know what is required. They should apologise to their Operations Services employees for this sneaky manoeuvre and immediately begin genuine bargaining for new agreements that reflect coal mining industry standards.”
In 2018 BHP created two shelf companies to use as labour hire companies to provide labour to BHP run mines. In October 2018 they made some enterprise agreements with a nominal iron ore workforce in the Pilbara who had no familiarity with black coal mining conditions in the eastern states.
The agreements undercut directly employed BHP coal miners by as much as $50,000, cut out crucial entitlements like accident pay and allow workers to be transferred to any of the company’s mines anywhere in the country.
There are now over 2000 Operations Services workers deployed at BHP coal mines, mostly in Queensland. Due to the ongoing legal challenge over the two Enterprise Agreements, BHP has moved its Operations Services’ workforce on to contracts reflecting the same pay and conditions.
The CFMEU has urged BHP to employ its OS workforce under existing site agreements, which BHP has rejected. The CFMEU is now calling for BHP to engage in genuine 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.
“Our message to Operations Services workers is that by standing together, workers can take on big companies like BHP and win,” said Mr Maher. “The Union stands with you and we will be fighting for a fairer deal that gives you the pay and conditions you deserve.” The CFMEU is currently taking legal action over Operations Services being required to work Christmas and Boxing Day with no choice or additional remuneration.