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Queensland miners share labour hire pains

July 27, 2021

Lobbing truth bombs at parliamentarians might not be in the job description for most Central Queensland miners, but it didn’t stop two of our members attending a Senate Hearing armed with little else earlier this month.

The labour hire rort mining companies have made commonplace through the industry was the focus of a recent Senate hearing, and coal miners Wayne Goulevitch and Chad Stokes made it clear the practice is hurting workers and communities.

Chad, who is a labour hire pump crew operator, told Senators on the Select Committee on Job Security people doing the same job should receive the same pay.

“I have worked in the coalmining industry for ten years as a pump crew operator and for the last seven years I have been a casual labour hire worker. There are just no permanent jobs being offered anymore,” he told the hearing.

“I work the same roster and shift as the permanent workers on my crew, but I have no job security, I get paid less, and it is really hard to take time off.

“I want to see the same pay implemented for labour hire workers, most importantly, I think the mine operators should directly employ more workers.

“When you are in labour hire, you are treated like a second-class citizen, you are given the worst jobs and you can be let go at any time. At my coalmine, more than half the workers are employed through labour hire rather than being directly employed.

“Mining companies keep changing labour hire companies so that workers do not have an opportunity to organise and improve their position.

Coal Miner Wayne Goulevitch at the hearing

Wayne Goulevitch, who has a permanent coal mining job, told the Senators when he started a decade ago there were 40 full timers and five labour hire employees in his pre-strip crew. Today there are 120 labour hire miners, paid tens of thousands less than permanent directly employed workers.

“My crew hasn’t had a full-time employee join our team in over seven years,” Wayne told the Senators.

“That is why I need ‘same job, same pay’ just as much as casuals in the industry, without it, my pay and conditions have been given a sunset.

“In effect, that means large multinationals get to reset pay and conditions whenever they choose. When I first started as a casual, Skilled was the labour hire company of choice, then TESA Mining, then WorkPac.

“Now it appears large multinationals want to start spurious shelf companies to give the impression of full-time employment but on greatly reduced pay and, more importantly, reduced conditions.

“Any First World country that declares they are a fair and just society while having two people doing the exact same job and being paid differently, tens of thousands of dollars differently – and sacking one at the drop of a hat then starting a whole new company to undermine the next – is demeritorious.

“Paying workers more and giving them secure employment so they can spend money in the economy increases GDP. Stashing hordes of cash in an offshore account does not.

“We should be enacting legislation that benefits the many, not privileges the few.” – Wayne Goulevitch

The Senate committee has heard from many locals including Isaac Mayor Anne Baker who described the impact of labour hire and casualisation as “nothing short of a pandemic”.

“We are living and breathing this, to the detriment of the viability and resilience of our community,” Mayor Baker said.

“There can be absolutely no mistake, that this completely undermines the socio-economic health of our regional and remote communities.”

Deputy Mayor Kelly Vea Vea said casualisation was done to cut costs, and to cut out unions.

“It’s a cheaper way of doing things and without workers being long-term or permanent it’s harder for them to organise,” she said.

Cr Vea Vea also challenged earlier evidence at the hearing which suggested casual workers did not want to convert to permanent work when given the chance.

“I would really like to make a statement regarding that claim that was made yesterday from labour hire companies saying less than one per cent of labour hire workers converted to permanent jobs, because they prefer more money and flexibility,” she said.

“For us, that was as misleading as it is outright offensive.”

Qld District President Steve Smyth

Queensland District President Steve Smyth, who also appeared at the hearings, called out Senator Matt Canavan’s disrespectful no-show at the committee when miners were giving evidence. Steve noted Canavan’s absence was particularly egregious, given he is Deputy Chair.

“I was looking forward to explaining to Senator Canavan what casualisation and labour hire means for the industry,” he said.

“He portrays himself in the media as the friend of coal mining communities, but we find in his attitudes he is friend only to the multinational companies which take millions of dollars out of those communities for foreign shareholders.

“I guess if I was Matt Canavan, I would be embarrassed to show my face given my support for recent IR laws which lock in casual exploitation in the Queensland mining industry. So I suppose on that level I can understand Matt hiding in shame.”

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