November 24, 2023
The Mining and Energy Union has secured a big win for BHP workers in camp accommodation in QLD this week, as the full bench of the Fair Work Commission has upheld that BHP were not permitted to remove worker’s rights in Single Person Villages under Queensland law.
The dispute originated in 2021 when BHP notified that they would cease the deduction of a weekly payment of $60 from workers salaries and then terminated the rooming accommodation agreements for their Moranbah Single Person Village accommodation. This agreement provided residents in the village accommodation key rights such as notice for conducting inspections, cleaning, and performing maintenance as well as other accommodation rights.
They told residents that this was not an eviction, but the MEU asserted in the Commission that BHP did not have the right to cease the deduction of $60 per week and that by cancelling these agreements BHP was attempting to overturn the accommodation rights of workers under the Moranbah Accommodation Agreement.
The Moranbah Accommodation Agreement was won by the Mining and Energy Union in 2012 and has since been incorporated into subsequent BMA enterprise agreements. The agreement requires that BHP deduct a subsidised rate of $60 a week from the employee’s salary in exchange for accommodation. This fee guaranteed the employee numerous rights under Queensland’s Residential Tenancies and Rooming Accommodation Act.
BHP attempted to argue that the fee was solely for their own benefit, and they had the discretion to cease collecting it whenever they saw fit.
However, in a strongly worded judgment, the Commission found that it was “reasonably apparent” that they sought “to escape the burden of the obligations upon BHP as the provider of accommodation, and the rights of employees living in the SPV as residents of such accommodation.”
“In essence, BHP has transformed an arrangement by which employees paid for the accommodation they were provided, and held legal rights pertaining to that accommodation as a result, to a ‘grace and favour’ arrangement pursuant to which BHP may dictate the terms on which the accommodation is provided.”
“The key point is that BHP’s purpose was to ensure that employees living in the SPV did not in future have rooming accommodation rights under the RTRA Act.”
In securing this win, the MEU has ensured that BHP employees in Moranbah will maintain their rights under legislation if residing in company accommodation. This protects workers by guaranteeing minimum standards and rights whilst in camp accommodation