May 30, 2019
The looming federal election is an important one for mining and energy workers. We believe a change of government is by far the best outcome for mining and energy workers. Here are some of the reasons why:
Ending the casual labour hire rip-off
Casual labour hire is out of control in coal mining. Many labour hire mineworkers are casual for years on end – and they’re paid much less than permanents. This is wrong.
The Liberal National Coalition has done nothing to support permanent jobs. Nationals MPs have been caught out telling porkies, saying the government has ‘fixed’ casualisation. Far from it.
Their proposed Fair Work Amendment (Right to Request Casual Conversion) Bill hasn’t even passed through Parliament. And it only allows for casuals to ask for a permanent job. We all know what the boss would say.
Labor has committed to giving casual workers the right to convert to a permanent role after 12 months, if they wish to; and ‘same job same pay’ for labour hire workers, to stop mine operators using labour hire to drive down wages and conditions. These changes would make a real difference to improving pay and permanency for labour hire workers.
Better wages and fairer workplace bargaining
Our members at Port Kembla Coal Terminal were locked out for over 50 over days straight and had their Enterprise Agreement terminated while trying to negotiate a new deal. This kind of aggressive action from employers during bargaining is unfair.
Under the Abbott/Turnbull/Morrison Government, it has become much harder for workers to bargain fairly with employers.
Labor has committed to making bargaining fairer in a number of ways, like stopping employers getting a small handful of workers to vote up an agreement that covers a whole workforce; introducing multi-employer bargaining where a fair agreement can’t be reached at the enterprise level; and preventing employers from terminating an agreement during bargaining to put unfair pressure on workers.
Making bargaining fairer is a way to improve conditions and increase wages, which have stagnated under the Coalition.
Energy policy to protect working people
Some members raise concerns with us about Labor’s energy policy. There is a lot of misinformation being spread about Labor’s approach to the coal industry, by desperate National Party politicians trying to hang on to their seats. Bill Shorten has said that coal will be an important part of Australia’s energy mix going forward and that coal exports will continue for many decades. This approach is backed up by forecasts from the International Energy Agency that Australia’s coal production will continue to grow for the next 20 years, due to customer demand. Labor has also said that the Adani development will proceed if it meets its regulatory requirements.
Meanwhile, there are plenty of other developments in the pipeline, like Whitehaven’s new Winchester South coal mine that is being fast tracked by the Queensland Government. It will generate 950 new coal mining jobs.
Labor’s Just Transition Authority is designed to support workers in coal-fired power stations that face closure. While Queensland has a relatively new fleet of coal-fired power stations that will be in operation for decades to come, some coal-fired power stations in NSW and Victoria face closure much sooner – their owners have said so. We’ve seen the devastating impact of the sudden closure of Hazelwood in 2017, which the current LNP government did nothing to prevent.
The Just Transition Authority has nothing to do with Adani, approvals of coal mines or hastening power station closures. It is relevant to power station workers in southern states where owners have announced that power stations will close. Only Labor has a policy to look after these affected workers by investing in new jobs and pooled redundancy schemes.
On May 18, let’s change the government and change the rules for mining and energy workers.
Grahame Kelly, General Secretary, CFMEU Mining and Energy