Union class action seeks millions for casual miners


Our Union has this week filed a landmark class action law suit to win back millions of dollars in unpaid entitlements for coal miners misclassified as casuals by labour hire firm WorkPac.

Find out  more and register your interest at classaction.cfmeu.org.au.

The lead applicant is Hunter Valley coal miner, Ben Renyard, who worked at Mount Thorley Warkworth mine through WorkPac for nearly three years, but it covers all affected union members.

Despite doing the same work, on the same roster under the same supervisors as permanent employees, Ben was one of a majority in his crew employed casually on a flat hourly rate, with no sick or annual leave, and no job security.

I worked on a crew alongside permanent workers on the same annual roster with the same supervisor, but I got less pay and no entitlements like annual leave or sick leave. As a casual you are treated like a second-class citizen,” he said.
I hope this class action puts the pressure on employers to stop exploiting casual workers.

The class action follows last year’s Federal Court ruling in WorkPac v Skene – a case also run and funded by CFMEU Mining and Energy – which found that casual coal miners in regular on-going employment with advance fixed rosters were not legally casual workers and were entitled to paid leave.

General President Tony Maher said the Skene judgment had exposed the rort of hiring workers as ‘permanent casuals’, which is widespread in mining.

“At many Australian coal mines, half or more of the workers are employed as casuals in jobs where the nature of the work is not casual at all.

“This rort robs workers of their legal entitlements and siphons that money back into the pockets of rich mining company shareholders and executives.

“Ben’s story is emblematic of a mining industry reliant on systemically short-changing its employees. Ben spent years working in what was effectively a permanent job but being called a casual and so not getting any entitlements.”

The class action covers members of the CFMEU Mining and Energy Division who are employed by labour hire company WorkPac and placed on assignment with a coal miner operator currently or for a period of at least three months since 2013. It applies to workers designated as casual, who are paid a flat hourly rate and work in accordance with a long-term roster determined by the mine operator.

Around 600 members have currently registered their interest in joining the action. Their unpaid annual leave entitlements alone are estimated to be worth more than $12 million. Non-members are encouraged to register their interest as they may be able to join the class action if they join the Union.

General President Tony Maher said the union-run class action would see all entitlements won flow directly back to members, with none lost in legal fees.

“Unlike class action law suits funded by profit-driven litigation funders, every single cent recovered by the CFMEU’s class action will go directly back to the affected workers.”

The class action has been filed by national law firm Slater & Gordon on behalf of the CFMEU Mining and Energy Division.

Find out more and register your interest at classaction.cfmeu.org.au.


Back to issue: August 2019