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Northern Mining & NSW Energy

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Western Australia

Programmed: Biggest labour hire company with worst pay

November 28, 2022

Workers at Programmed Services are getting organised to improve pay and conditions for contractors working across mines in the Hunter Valley.  

Since replacing Chandler Macleod’s contract at Mt Arthur, Programmed Services is now the largest labour hire provider in the Northern District coalfields. As well as Mt Arthur, Programmed has contracts at Hunter Valley Operations, Bengalla, Maules Creek, Mount Thorley Warkworth, Mt Arthur South, and Mt Pleasant. 

Despite having client mines like BHP and Whitehaven Coal who recorded net profits after tax of US$30.9bn and AU$1.95bn respectively for FY2022, Programmed workers have one of lowest base pay rates in the District in their current Enterprise Agreement.  

With their current Enterprise Agreement, Programmed mineworkers earn around $35,000 a year less than permanent mineworkers employed through mine operators.  

The Enterprise Agreement for Programmed Services workers expires in February 2023, providing an opportunity to bargain for a better deal.  

A survey of Programmed mineworkers found that:  

  • Over half of respondents said poor job and income security were their primary concerns 
  • On average respondents have worked as contractors through Programmed for four years 
  • Most respondents say receiving less pay than permanent staff doing the same job is unfair. 

The Log of Claims survey launched in October also revealed some concerning sentiments, with respondents saying that they feel that they have been silenced, are constantly forced to sacrifice, and that they feel like they are second class citizens on site.  

Respondents also said they were concerned about a lack of communication from the company, rushed training and a lack of support from the employer.  

Programmed Services’ website states that its labour hire workforce of 20,000 employees. Approximately 1,000 of these workers are labour hire coal miners working in the Northern District coalfields. This makes Programmed one of the biggest employers in the District.  

Despite the size of the workforce, the labour hire business model works to keep wages and conditions down, said Northern Mining and NSW Energy District President Robin Williams. 

“Contractors in the industry live in constant hope of getting a permanent shirt. Yet our survey shows the reality – that most workers remain in labour hire roles for years and most never get the opportunity for a permanency. 

“The mining companies want people to be crippled by insecurity, so they don’t get organised and stand up for a better deal.  

“Our message to workers at Programmed and all labour hire workers across the industry, is that we can get a better deal but we need to stand together.  

“Standing together through the union is the only way we have ever won improved conditions in the mining industry. We encourage all workers to participate in surveys, chat to our organisers when they come on site and join the union so that we are in the strongest possible position when it comes to bargaining.”  

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