OPINION: Don’t be led down the garden path over Same Job Same Pay

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The Minerals Council of Australia has resorted to spam text messages to spread confusion about the Federal Government’s proposed Same Job Same Pay policy for labour hire workers.

Their strange ads set in fictional garden centres have been everywhere, leaving many scratching their heads.

Minerals Council of Australia members employ thousands of labour hire workers in their mines, so why are their ads set in a nursery? And if they believe labour hire workers are lazy, why do they continue to employ so many?

We can’t compete with the budget of the Minerals Council of Australia; but our Union has campaigned hard for laws to end the labour hire rort in the mining industry and is challenging the lobbyists’ misinformation with our own campaign calling to ‘Close the labour hire loopholes’.

Mining companies oppose Same Job Same Pay because their business model is based on replacing permanent employees with labour hire workers doing the same jobs, working the same rosters, for less pay. This is a legal loophole that allows mining companies to avoid the pay rates set out in Enterprise Agreements. It’s a rort.

Same Job Same Pay has nothing to do with employers’ ability to pay based on performance and experience, in fact some mines pay the same rate to every permanent employee regardless of the proposed change. It is unlikely to affect anyone working in a garden centre; unless the owners are using labour hire to undercut their direct employees.

The policy is purely focused on ensuring that employers don’t use labour hire workers to undercut site rates set out in enterprise agreements. If you work in a mine and not a nursery, you know that this practice has taken off over the past decade. It locks thousands of NSW mineworkers out of the secure jobs, pay, and conditions won through decades of collective bargaining in our industry.

According to NSW Coal Services, around 40% of NSW coal miners are employed through labour hire companies like Programmed or WorkPac.

Programmed is now the biggest labour hire operator in the Hunter Valley coalfields, with contracts at Mt Arthur, Hunter Valley Operations, Mount Thorley Warkworth, Maules Creek, Bengalla and Mount Pleasant. Programmed’s current pay offer is just 2% above the Award minimum, which in no way reflects the value delivered by workers at these highly profitable mines.

Mining companies rely on outsourced labour because it is much harder for contractors to bargain than it is for direct employees, dangling the prospect of permanent work in front of them and causing some to fear losing their job if they speak up or join the Union.

However, joining the Union is completely confidential. Your employer or the mining company will not know you are a Union member unless you tell them. We encourage all labour hire mineworkers to join the Union and support our campaigns for better agreements and for better laws.

As we continue to organise and negotiate better agreements at NSW mine sites, we need new laws to close the loopholes that allow mining companies to ignore site agreements and outsource jobs. We are confident that Same Job Same Pay will improve protections and raise wages for labour hire mineworkers.

These laws are being developed as part of a package of workplace reform aimed at closing loopholes, including restoring the legal principle established by our Union’s landmark cases against WorkPac, which determined that ‘permanent casuals’ employed in the coal mining industry on regular full-time hours were not genuine casuals and deserved access to entitlements.

It is anticipated that the Same Job Same Pay legislation will be brought before the Lower House in Spring before moving to the Senate for an Inquiry. As it develops, the MEU is ensuring that workers voices are heard every step of the way.

Robin Williams

District President MEU Northern Mining and NSW Energy

To stay up to date with Same Job Same Pay – and get the truth behind the mining company scare campaigns – follow our campaign at SameJobSamePay.com.au

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