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Northern Mining & NSW Energy

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Western Australia

First steps to a better deal at Carmichael

June 17, 2022

Workers have not had a fair go at Carmichael, the Adani (now Bravus) mine that made headlines in 2019 as the target of anti-coal campaigners. Now, workers are getting organised and have started bargaining for a union collective agreement to replace substandard individual contracts.

The Carmichael mine in the Galilee Basin won widespread support as an important provider of jobs. But the Union hears from workers at Carmichael over and again that the jobs should be better. Turnover is high, workers are some the of lowest paid in the Queensland coal industry, and overtime is not properly paid.

Hear about the union’s fight against dodgy conditions at Carmichael mine in our latest podcast: 

There are blatant safety oversights, with little care being given to dust level standards on site or in camp, hot-bedding with sick workers, and even workers being put on planes that are pooling with water and need to turn around due to mechanical failures.

Workers at Carmichael mine have had a gutful of poor treatment and terrible management, so MEU members and workers came together to fight for the right to bargain for fair pay and better conditions.

After extensive work by MEU organisers led by Queensland District Vice President Shane Brunker, workers undertook a majority support determination to express their support for MEU representation in bargaining for an Enterprise Agreement to replace their current individual contracts. The majority support determination received 70% support from the workforce and the Fair Work Commission (FWC) granted the workforce the ability to bargain.

However, McKellar stalled talks with the Union due to changing their company name to ‘M People’. Workers were concerned by this move as they saw it as a ploy to delay bargaining.

Despite this, the FWC ruled that workers at Carmichael mine have the right to bargain for their pay and conditions following the majority support determination.

On 15 and 16 June, Carmichael workers’ representatives commenced bargaining with M People for a collective agreement with terms and conditions that better reflect standards in the Queensland coal industry.

Workers’ reps are seeking a fair pay increase that reflects high coal prices and 4.6% increase in Black Coal Award rates of pay and they pushed M People to take action urgently on:

  • shift payments for trades to reflect actual hours worked
  • increased overtime for bus drivers
  • more light vehicles to alleviate transport shortages at shift changeovers
  • drug and alcohol testing to be conducted on paid time
  • action to address poor accommodation standards at camp
  • improved incident report process to ensure matters are addressed.

Workers also want guarantees about the provision of flights.

MEU members and representatives after their first day of bargaining.

Shane Brunker said the initial two days of meetings in Townsville gave bargaining reps the opportunity to outline their claims, but time on the second day was unexpectedly cut short when some delegates were informed their flight times back to site had been brought forward.

He said it was disappointing that progress on the first day was cut short, however the bargaining team representing all production and workshop crews benefited from the experience.

“They spoke to their claims and gave the company a roadmap for addressing the current high turnover and low morale. We reinforced that if they had come to the table earlier, they wouldn’t be facing the same pressure on wages that we are now seeing across the industry.

“It is great to see bargaining finally underway and we thank all the delegates for their participation.”

Our Union always committed that if the Carmichael mine was built, we would organise it. It’s great to see these workers are now negotiating for a collective agreement to replace substandard individual contracts and bring their pay and conditions in line with standards across the Queensland industry.

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