OPINION: Mining Employs Highly Skilled and Highly Paid Workers

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Recent calls for ‘same job, same pay’ do not reflect the facts. Australian mining workers are not underpaid or precariously employed.

Australian mining directly employs 256,800 people in highly skilled, highly paid and secure jobs, predominantly in regional Australia such as the Hunter Valley. Median weekly earnings for mining workers were $2,325 in 2020, double the median for all industries ($1,150).

Labour hire workers deliver operational flexibility, which is crucial for mining because it experiences larger swings in production and revenue than other major industries, and also helps mining companies to seize expansion opportunities presented by temporary increases in commodity prices, supplement core skills and provide a career entry path to new workers.


According to work by Deloitte Access Economics for the MCA, labour hire workers – who may be permanent or casual – account for 11 per cent of the minerals workforce and 14 per cent of the coal operations workforce. The mining industry successfully employs a range of agreement options to drive productivity and incomes, with 99 per cent of mining workers earning above-award wages and conditions.

Applying a ‘same job, same pay’ requirement would negatively impact mining job opportunities.

Requiring labour hire workers to receive the same above-award wages and entitlements as direct employees would reduce the capacity of companies to ramp up and down during different phases of demand and production, reducing labour efficiency and investment and ultimately costing jobs.

Deloitte Access Economics has estimated that if mining companies were required to grant labour hire workers and service contractors the same pay and conditions as direct employees, labour efficiency and future investment would decrease, with the result that:

  • Employment in coal mining would decline (relative to where it would otherwise have been) by approximately 2,300 full-time-equivalent jobs a year to 2031.
  • Employment in minerals and other mining would fall by 4,900 jobs a year.
  • Employment in mining-related construction would contract by 4,000 jobs a year.

The MCA is opposed to any legislation or regulation that undermines the flexibility benefits and performance incentives of enterprise bargaining at the very time the industry needs to be flexible, adaptable and competitive to support economic recovery.

Tania Constable

CEO, Minerals Council of Australia

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