What’s next for Same Job Same Pay?


The election of the Albanese Labor Government means we can now look forward to progress on new laws to implement Same Job Same Pay for labour hire workers in the mining industry and across the workforce.

Before the election, Labor committed to introducing Same Job Same Pay laws within its first year of government and now it has a mandate to do so.

Before legislation is drafted, the Government will undertake a consultation process with employers and unions to make sure the legislation is workable and meets its intended purpose of stopping labour hire being used to undercut Enterprise Agreements.

We have all seen how the mining industry has embraced outsourcing purely to cut pay and conditions for mineworkers back to rates barely above the Black Coal Award, when decades of union collective bargaining has delivered industry standards typically 30-40% above the Award.

We are optimistic that Same Job Same Pay laws will result in real wage increases for labour hire workers and an increase in direct, permanent employees as the cost incentive to outsource jobs is removed.

We know that mining companies and other major employers who have embraced the labour hire business model will lobby hard to limit the scope of the legislation.

But we know that after a decade of the labour hire rort becoming entrenched, a significant change in employment practices is needed.

Resource prices are at record highs and mining companies can afford to do the right thing. And the global economic uncertainty facing the mining and energy industries means that we need permanent jobs with good pay and conditions more than ever.

Profits are growing faster than wages across the economy, with the share of national income going to corporate profits at record highs. As the Centre for Future Work’s Greg Jericho explained “The shift in national income from wages to profits has been in place for over 40 years now… It is not an accident of economic conditions, but a feature of the system.”

This trend has accelerated sharply in recent years, partly because of commodity price booms. Mining profits have jumped dramatically since 2019. Mining profits have surged so dramatically that they now exceed profits from all other industries combined. The current mining export boom has not delivered wage growth in the industry – and that is in large part because of mining companies using labour hire to undermine union collective bargaining and drive wages down.

It’s true that mining is a relatively well-paid industry. But what most people do not understand – apart from the long shifts, time away from home and dangerous nature of the work – is that the average mineworker contributes around $1.2 million per annum in output to their employer.

In other words, they return roughly eight times the value of their wages to the company bottom line. Because labour hire workers are paid considerably less, their contribution to profits are even higher.

At a time when the relationship between profits and wages is completely out of kilter, we need Same Job, Same Pay to restore some balance.

Same Job, Same Pay is not a radical idea. It has existed in Europe and the United Kingdom since the late 2000’s, including under a Conservative Government.

The campaign run by our Union during the federal election means the new Government now has a mandate to introduce Same Job Same Pay laws. Our Union will certainly be holding them to account for delivering on this commitment and we will be at the table working through the issues to make sure the new legislation is in a form that will boost wages and permanent jobs for mineworkers.

General President, Tony Maher

 


Back to issue: June 2022