We have reached a major milestone in our campaign for fairer workplace laws with the introduction to Federal Parliament last month of new legislation that would deliver Same Job Same Pay for labour hire workers.
But the Liberal Nationals and One Nation have teamed up to ensure there’s a catch.
The Closing Loopholes Bill introduced by Workplace Relations Minister Tony Burke would ensure labour hire workers are fairly compensated and not used to undercut enterprise agreements.
It would allow workers and their unions to apply to the Fair Work Commission for Same Job Same Pay orders if labour hire workers were performing the same work as permanent employees covered by an Enterprise Agreement.
When introducing the Bill, Workplace Relations Minister Tony Burke made special mention of coal miners. He gave a shout out to our member Brodie Allen, a labour hire coal miner at a Queensland BHP coal mine, saying the laws would stop him being paid less for doing the same job. Minister Burke has spent plenty of time in coal mines – including in the NSW coalfields – hearing the stories of labour hire coal miners in our industry.
The Closing Loopholes Bill would also end the permanent casual rort, give greater protections to gig workers and finally ensure that employers who knowingly steal wages face criminal consequences.
Unfortunately, workers who have been fighting for these issues for years will have to wait even longer, as the Coalition teamed up with crossbench Senators including One Nation’s Pauline Hanson and Malcolm Roberts to delay a Senate Inquiry into the Bill.
Despite being on track to smoothly pass through the lower house, the Senate opposition voted early in September to extend the due date of their report into the Closing Loopholes Bill until February next year. They voted to give themselves almost five extra months to do their job – if only the rest of us could be so lucky. It is worth noting that this extension also provided big businesses with an additional five months to conduct their adversarial campaigns.
Even though Labor came to office promising these reforms, Coalition and One Nation Senators have said their concern was the length and complexity of the Bill. I suppose they’re not used to what real change looks like given the Coalition’s decade of inaction in addressing big business’ unfair practices.
But I hope Australian workers see this move for what it is: a delaying tactic to avoid paying workers their fair share, even if just for a few more months.
Nevertheless, we will continue campaigning for the fair reforms included in the Closing Loopholes Bill until they pass through the Federal Parliament and become the law of the land.
Under the current detail of the Bill, which faces the prospect of further change in Senate negotiations, the Union could start making applications for Same Job Same Pay orders once the legislation passes through Parliament, and orders granted by the Fair Work Commission could be enacted from November 2024. We will be keeping our members up to date with the details of the Bill as it travels through the Parliament.
This month, there will be a series of Senate Hearings around the country and we will ensure coal miners’ voices are heard loud and clear.
Business is continuing to campaign hard against the reforms, with fresh claims in the papers each day about how the sky will fall in if workers are paid properly.
BHP made headlines with claims that Same Job Same Pay would cost them $1.3 Billion in revenue, as if we should feel sympathy that they’ll no longer be able to rip off Australian workers and communities for such an enormous amount.
Minerals Council CEO Tania Constable took it even further, being quoted calling the Bill “a dagger to the heart of investment in Australia.” A bit dramatic, but if it were going to cost you and your mates a slice of their record profits, you would be too.
We can expect the Coalition and their One Nation helpers to keep fighting tooth-and-nail to prevent the Bill from passing and ending big business’ rorts. After all, One Nation has form when it comes to using their numbers in the Senate to overturn rights for labour hire and casual workers.
While the Senate delay is a setback, we remain confident that the Closing Loopholes Bill will successfully pass through Parliament.
If Big Business and their parliamentary helpers are hoping that the delay gives them time to shift public opinion, they’re in for a rude surprise. Australian workers are fed up with getting ripped off at work and itching to make their voices heard.
District President MEU Northern Mining and NSW Energy
|To get involved and join the campaign, go to samejobsamepay.com|