Change District


Northern Mining & NSW Energy

NSW South Western




Western Australia


Workplace reform shows early signs of success

February 26, 2024

The Federal Labor Government has successfully passed three important rounds of workplace legislative reform including the Closing Loopholes Bill. While it will take some time for the changes taking effect, we are already seeing positive signs for workers in the mining industry and beyond.

Last week, ABS wages data showed that that wages were growing faster than inflation and the 4.2% increase in December was the highest annual growth since 2009.  

As our Union prepares to make our first Same Job Same Pay applications to deliver wage rises to labour hire miners, we are already seeing positive developments across the industry.

More permanent jobs in the mining industry

We have seen a considerable increase in permanent employment among labour hire companies in the mining industry, which was plagued by casualisation. Even though strengthened rights for casuals have only recently passed the Parliament, measures to set boundaries around casual work in the mining industry has seen permanent employment rise over the past 18 months in our industry.

Similarly, in some parts of the mining industry we have seen an increase in direct employment due now reforms stamping out labour hire exploitation, through Same Job Same Pay. For those mineworkers in the black coal mining industry that remain casual, we welcome the changes and will work to ensure that casual mineworkers are treated no less favourably than permanent employees in the accrual, payment and reporting of their hard-earned long service leave.

Multinational companies are more willing to come to the table  

We are also seeing signs that employers – even multinational mining companies who are used to getting their own way – are more willing to speak to the Union to resolve workforce issues, rather than take an intransigent approach. Measures which work to encourage companies to come to the table include the inability to terminate Enterprise Agreements and the possibility of arbitration to resolve deadlocks.

This willingness to work with the Union has resulted in positive outcomes for workers in numerous individual matters. We have also had significant outcomes in bargaining recently, for example a new Agreement for Rio Tinto train drivers and an agreement in principle for BHP train drivers in the Pilbara – a region where mining employers have been inflexible for many years when it comes to negotiating with their workforce. These deals were also positively impacted by new rights for union delegates, which ensure delegates are able to conduct activities on paid time.

Strengthening genuine bargaining by ensuring agreements are vote up by the workers it will cover

There has been a noticeable decline in ‘small cohort’ enterprise agreements, where a handful of unrepresentative workers vote up an agreement which can go on to cover hundreds, or even thousands of others. These dodgy agreements undermined the principle of genuine bargaining and had become common practice among labour hire companies in the mining industry. The new requirement for workers who vote up an agreement to be representative of those it will cover has significantly reduced this practice.

We look forward to seeing positive impacts from the new IR laws in the months and years ahead and will be doing our part to ensure they improve wages and employment conditions in the mining and energy industries.

On another note, I was very pleased to represent the Mining and Energy Union at ACTU Executive last week, as we are now affiliated in our own right. Our independent union has had a very positive welcome from across the trade union movement and we look forward to working closely with the ACTU and other unions to further the interests of MEU members.

Tony Maher is the General President of the Mining and Energy Union.

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