OPINION: Mount Pleasant to test new Same Job Same Pay laws

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Same Job Same Pay

The MEU has made an application for Same Job Same Pay orders for Programmed labour hire production workers at Mount Pleasant coal mine near Muswellbrook. It is the first application in NSW under new federal laws and paves the way for many more. 

The new laws allow for applications to be made to the Fair Work Commission for Same Job Same Pay when labour hire workers are performing the same work as permanent employees on an Enterprise Agreement. The intention is to prevent employers such as mine operators from undercutting pay rates agreed between workers and employers through enterprise bargaining.

Our application at Mount Pleasant was made shortly after our initial application at Callide Mine near Biloela in Queensland. These two locations were selected as appropriate first cases with a high chance of success due to their typical labour hire arrangements.

At Mount Pleasant, which is owned by MACH Energy and operated by Thiess, Programmed labour hire production workers perform the same work on the same rosters, on the same equipment under the same supervision as Thiess production workers.

These Mount Pleasant and Callide applications will now be heard by the Fair Work Commission, who will determine whether to issue Same Job Same Pay orders, triggering a requirement to pay a ‘protected rate of pay’ in line with rates in the host employer’s Enterprise Agreement.

If approved, the order would lift the pay of Programmed production employees to match production operators employed under the Thiess Mount Pleasant Operation Enterprise Agreement. The pay differential ranges from approximately $30,000 to $40,000 a year.

Pay rises flowing from these or any future orders will come into effect on 1 November this year.

As the first applications under new laws, these applications will be watched closely. It is our hope that they will be dealt with promptly by the Commission and our intention is to follow them with a steady stream of applications in recognition of the widespread use of labour hire across the industry. 

We understand that many workers across the industry are interested in the timing of applications and when and if an application will be made at their workplace. The order of applications for Same Job Same Pay will be determined in consultation with our highly experienced legal team based on the circumstances at the site fitting requirements of the legislation, density of union membership among the labour hire workforce and member support for the application from labour hire and permanent members. After all, MEU members have funded our long campaign for Same Job Same Pay laws for labour hire workers over many years.

Our message to all labour hire and contractor mineworkers across the industry is to get on board, join the Union, help us make strong Same Job Same Pay applications and return fairness to the industry.

Our Union welcomes and supports all workers in the coal industry, whether permanent, labour hire or contractor. Apart from getting to the front of the queue for Same Job Same Pay applications, Union membership gives all members access to our expert workplace support and advice.

If you’re already a MEU member, talk to your labour hire workmates about joining the Union to strengthen the case for a Same Job Same Pay application at your worksite.

Keep up to date with Same Job Same Pay developments by following the Union’s social media channels and checking our website. 

We have fought long and hard for new laws to address the labour hire rort. Now we are determined to ensure they work as intended to deliver pay rises for labour hire workers and end the unfair business model that has allowed mining companies to sidestep site Enterprise Agreements and drive down wages.

Robin Williams

District President MEU Northern Mining and NSW Energy

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