September 21, 2022
Twenty-two underground miners sacked from Peabody’s Helensburgh mine were not genuine redundancies as they should have been redeployed in roles being performed by contractors, the Fair Work Commission has ruled in a big win for permanent jobs.
Legal Director Adam Walkaden said that the full bench decision is significant because it is the first time the Commission has accepted union arguments that redundancies were not genuine if similar work had been outsourced to contractors.
The 22 mineworkers at Helensburgh Coal in NSW were dismissed in the middle of 2020. At the time, work was being undertaken at the site by contractors Mentser and Nexus.
Peabody unsuccessfully appealed the FWC’s original decision, which had found it was not reasonable to keep providing work to Mentser or Nexus while terminating the employment of direct employees.
Brendan Gronall was one of the workers who was dismissed from Helensburgh mine. Brendan had worked at Helensburgh for a total of 12 years and got a permanent job with Peabody after 4 years as a contractor.
“It was very disappointing. I was very surprised that it happened, and everyone around me found it to be very surprising as well,” said Brendan.
“Getting a permanent job is hard, so when you lose it, that’s even more disappointing.
“It’s great to prove that what was done to us was done unfairly. We should have kept our jobs at the end of the day, so it’s great that the decision came in our favour in the appeal.”
The case will now go back to the original Commissioner, who will determine whether the workers should be compensated or rehired.
“Mine operators shouldn’t be making permanent employees redundant when there is no shortage of work being performed by contractors,” said Adam Walkaden.
“At Helensburgh, as at many coal mines, the outsourced work was not specialist in nature. While the circumstances of each case are unique, this win against Peabody helps establish the principle that every effort must be made to redeploy workers before sacking them. It’s a win for permanent jobs.”