Mine workers will today plead their case before a Senate Inquiry on proposed workplace law changes which the union has labelled a “detriment” to Mackay and its resources industry.
Tightening the definition of casual employment will be a key aspect of a 27 page submission union representatives will present to the committee, which is sitting in Townsville.
CFMEU Mining and Energy Queensland southwest vice-president Shane Brunker said the casualisation of mine jobs was a “cancer that’s spreading through the industry”.
He said there were thousands of workers across the Bowen Basin, contracted through labour hire companies as a casual employee but working a full-time roster without benefits such as annual or sick leave.
“Once you’re a casual you can’t get home loans, can’t get finance,” he said.
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“We understand that there’s peaks and troughs where you need to have extra labour come in … but the amount of casual labour now in the mining industry who are there permanently is just out of control.
“It’s to the detriment of mackay’s economy and to mackay’s workers.”
During his time at one Central Queensland mine Mr Brunker recalled a worker, who had been there for five years on a casual contract.
“(He) couldn’t go away from town for holidays, he was waiting on call all the time for his next shift,” he said.”
(He) couldn’t get a home loan, can’t get a car loan. They’re just strung along.”
The union was pushing to have the definition of a casual worker tightened up.
“A lot of these positions that are in the mines aren’t casual, they’re actually permanent roles, but they’re being abused by this grey area of what the definition of casual is.
“We’re hoping to secure permanent jobs.”
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The submission will also focus on union concerns over changes to the making an enterprise agreement process.
“The (Federal) Government’s arguing the process for making an enterprise agreement is complicated and hard, which it isn’t,” Mr Brunker said.
A number of workers will also be there to offer their first hand experience to the committee.
The Queensland Council of Unions, the peak union council representing more than 350,000 workers throughout the state, has lodged a public submission calling for the laws to be totally scrapped.
The QCU submission argues that the proposed laws will allow employers to take advantage of labour market conditions created by the pandemic.
“Workers have been the heroes of our nation’s incredible pandemic response but these laws will attack their wages and conditions,” QCU general secretary Michael Clifford said.
The QCU, as well as a number of other unions including the CFMEU, will be appearing before the Senate Inquiry, as well as seeking one-on-one meetings with Senators.
Today’s hearing will be one of only three hearing days held across the nation on these proposed laws.
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