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Chandler Win a Victory for Contractor Rights

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Former employees of Chandler at Mount Arthur are due to receive redundancy pay after our union won an important legal victory that bolsters rights for contractors in the mining industry.

In September 2021, Chandler lost the contract to Programmed to provide labour hire employees to Mt Arthur. Chandler had previously held the contract to provide labour hire employees to Mt Arthur for about seven years and employed hundreds of workers to fulfil the contractual requirements.

As a result of unsuccessfully tendering for the contract, Chandler terminated the employment of its employees working at the mine, by way of redundancy.

Prior to Chandler’s contract winding up, the majority of employees successfully obtained employment at Mt Arthur with Programmed. In order to gain employment with Programmed, the employees attended information sessions, applied for positions online, provided documentation to support their applications, and attended interviews and medicals.    

Chandler took the unusual step of applying to the Fair Work Commission for an order to reduce the redundancy pay it was required to pay its permanent employees to zero, on the basis it had obtained other acceptable employment for its employees with Programmed.

The Fair Work Act provides the Fair Work Commission with the power to reduce redundancy pay an employee is entitled to be paid, if the employer obtained other acceptable employment for the employee, or the employer cannot pay the amount.

Our legal team challenged Chandler’s application and seven of our members gave evidence to the Commission regarding the steps they took to be considered for a position with Programmed, their positions with Chandler, and whether they were successful in their job applications.

As a result of our members’ evidence, the Commission concluded that the evidence did not support a finding that actions by Chandler were the primary factor in the affected workers obtaining employment with Programmed.

Based on the evidence, Chandler’s application to reduce redundancy pay to zero under provisions in the Fair Work Act was dismissed. Chandler appealed this decision, but the Fair Work Commission dismissed the appeal in subsequent decision delivered on 30 September.

This is a great win for affected workers, but it is also an important case for defending the rights of labour hire mineworkers who are subjected to the constant uncertainty of mine operators chopping and changing contract labour suppliers.

It is a good example of the work our highly experienced legal and industrial team does to support members. Access to expert legal advice and assistance is one of the most important benefits available to union members. Whether you are permanent or a contractor, if have an issue at work including unfair dismissal, retrenchment, workers compensation or payment of entitlements, the union is here to assist.

Importantly, please don’t wait until you experience a problem at work before joining the union and expecting legal support as you may be disappointed. Our legal and industrial services are funded by members’ dues and members have a reasonable expectation that services will be provided only to those who contribute.

Robin Williams

District President MEU Northern Mining and NSW Energy

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