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Debunking False Allegations: A Response to Senator Roberts’ Claims

July 19, 2023

In a recent letter to Senator Roberts, Grahame Kelly, the General Secretary of the Mining and Energy Union, responded to false allegations made against the union and shed light on the enterprise agreement with Chandler Macleod in 2015. Mr Kelly also extended an invitation to discuss concerns and provided insights into the employment of casuals in the mining industry.

The letter provides an in-depth explanation of the issues raised by Senator Roberts, clarifies misconceptions, and offers an opportunity for dialogue. It sheds light on the enterprise agreement with Chandler Macleod, the employment of casuals in the mining industry, and the ongoing labor hire exploitation prevalent in Queensland.

Setting the Record Straight on Enterprise Agreements

In response to Senator Roberts’ claims concerning our union, we’d like to clarify that the allegations are not only vexatious but also unfounded. The assertions made about how our enterprise agreements are formed are misguided, specifically those concerning the 2015 Chandler Macleod Enterprise Agreement. The agreement was formed after Chandler Macleod won a contract by undercutting wages at Mount Arthur coal mine, leading us to successfully challenge the agreement. Subsequently, a fair deal was established that included a substantial back pay, restoring the workers’ pay rates and future pay increases.

No Special Deals, Just Fair Bargaining

There was no clandestine arrangement made with Chandler Macleod. Instead, a transparent bargaining process took place that safeguarded workers’ rights and ensured fair pay. The Union always maintained the right to pursue entitlements for the workers. We continue our fight against the unfair casual work model, which is often misinterpreted and leveraged to exploit workers.

Addressing Casual Work and Enterprise Agreements

While the Black Coal Industry Award doesn’t provide for casual work, most coal miners are employed under Enterprise Agreements that allow for casual work. This is lawful, even if it doesn’t align with our approach or Senator Roberts’. The Union has a track record of challenging any Enterprise Agreement that we believe doesn’t meet specific legal requirements.

The Reality of Workplace Laws

Regrettably, current workplace laws allow mining companies to casualise jobs and lower work conditions by outsourcing to labour hire entities such as Chandler Macleod. Despite unsuccessful class actions due to the lack of provisions for casual workers in the law, we continue to strive for a change in these regulations.

Addressing Labour Hire Exploitation

We appreciate Senator Roberts’ interest in the small group of non-union coal miners in the Hunter Valley. However, it’s crucial to acknowledge the widespread exploitation of labour hire miners across the Queensland coal industry. BHP, for example, has made extensive use of the labour hire business model to employ workers at lower wages than their direct employees.

Invite for Open Discussion

In the spirit of promoting fair work practices, we invite Senator Roberts to meet with Queensland labour hire miners who are currently experiencing these unfair work arrangements. We are also open to discussing the various other issues raised in his letter concerning our Union’s involvement with different industry bodies. It’s important to emphasise that our primary role in these bodies is to actively represent the interests of workers in the coal industry.

To conclude, the Union remains steadfast in its commitment to combat labour hire exploitation and uphold the rights of mining industry workers. We look forward to engaging with Senator Roberts on these matters.

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