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Northern Mining & NSW Energy

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Western Australia


Justice at last for sacked Helensburgh workers

April 5, 2024

MEU members at Helensburgh coal mine in the Illawarra had an important win in a long-running case, with the Federal Court ruling that 22 mineworkers sacked in 2020 were not genuine redundancies.

The full court of the Federal Court accepted union arguments that the affected permanent employees could have been reasonably redeployed. When they were dismissed in June 2020, similar roles at the site were being undertaken by contractors Mentser and Nexus.

MEU South West District Vice President Bob Timbs said the 22 workers had fought a long battle for the important principle that mine owners shouldn’t cut permanent jobs while outsourcing comparable work.

“These workers lost their jobs almost four years ago and they have endured a lengthy legal battle to fight for their own jobs and the principle of job security in the mining industry,” he said.

In 2022, the Fair Work Commission determined that the sackings were not genuine redundancies, however their decision was appealed to the Federal Court by mine owner Peabody.

With the Federal Court dismissing their appeal, Peabody now has the opportunity appeal to the High Court. If they do not appeal, the matter will revert to the Fair Work Commission to decide on remedy for the affected workers, which could include compensation or being rehired. 

This landmark decision, assisting in challenging future redundancies of permanent workers across the mining industry as thousands of non-specialist jobs are outsourced to labour hire contractors. 

“Workers who are fortunate enough to have a permanent job don’t want to lose it, because it’s hard to get another one. Almost half of the coal mining workforce in the Southern District are labour hire contractors. It’s a model that employers have embraced to erode pay, rights, conditions and job security. 

“If we can restore permanent work as the dominant model in our industry, everyone benefits.”

This is a fantastic legal decision and we thank our affected members and legal team who were determined to fight all the way; and all MEU members who collectively fund important legal cases to lift standards in our industry.

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