Strong EAs the key to fighting bosses’ attacks


With bosses attacking mineworkers’ rights and conditions on a number of fronts, it has never been more important to have strong union agreements to protect your employment standards.

Accident pay is a recent target, with the major coal mining companies teaming up to cut provisions for injured workers in the Black Coal Mining Industry Award.

BHP, AngloAmerican, Glencore, Peabody, Rio Tinto, South32, Centennial Coal, Yancoal and Whitehaven were all behind a successful application to the Fair Work Commission to reduce accident pay through the award modernisation process.

The cut to accident pay in the Award from 78 to 52 weeks took effect from November last year. The Union appealed the decision to the Federal Court, however earlier this month the Federal Court ruled against us.

It’s a terrible outcome which will see money flow direct from injured workers to mining companies. Many Union members won’t be affected as they are covered by Enterprise Agreements that specify accident pay provisions and are not dependent on the award. However, some EAs and contracts in the industry do not specify accident pay, meaning Award conditions apply.

Companies will use this change to try and drive down future accident pay provisions in EAs in future rounds of bargaining.

Mining companies – like all employers – will be emboldened by the return of the Coalition Government and we can expect more attacks on our hard-won rights and conditions.

We are already fighting a move by the Australian Industry Group to limit the scope of the the Black Coal Mining Industry Award so that it excludes some contractors – this would let employers off the hook for providing industry standard conditions for workers and contributing to our portable long service leave scheme.

We are also fighting BHP’s shonky Operations Services EAs that have been submitted for approval to the Fair Work Commission and would entrench a second-class workforce within the mining giant’s operations. These non-Union agreements were voted up by just a few workers in Western Australian iron ore operations but are designed to cover thousands in BHP coal mines and drive down wages.

We have an excellent legal team with a good track record of success in court. But the reality is that without worker-friendly laws and without a government that will go in to bat for workers, bosses will be taking every opportunity to drive down their wages bill.

The best insurance for protecting the pay and working conditions in our industry – like accident pay – is strong Union agreements in the workplace. To get strong agreements, we need a strong Union presence, including labour hire and contractors. The bosses seek to divide and conquer because they know how much power there is in a united and unionised workforce.

Our Union has good examples of casual labour hire and contractors organising and winning better conditions through strong workplace agreements. There are no short cuts, but by sticking together we can push back against the bosses’ attacks on our conditions and our pay packets.

GRAHAME KELLY
GENERAL SECRETARY


Back to issue: July 2019