A GROUP of about 30 present and former employees of the Ashtonfield-based Bloomfield Group say they have been underpaid on long service leave and other benefits for years and have gone to the Fair Work Commission to have their complaints heard.
The men work for a company called Four Mile Pty Ltd, which maintains and repairs mining equipment used at the Bloomfield Group’s two open-cut mines, Bloomfield and Rix’s Creek.
In a letter to Fair Work and the coal industry Long Service Leave Corporation, the Four Mile workers say there has been “a calculated intention” to avoid paying long service leave at the coal industry rate, which, like many coal industry entitlements, is more generous than those paid to other industries.
The Four Mile workers say their enterprise agreements have been wrongly based on metals industry standards rather than the coal industry award, and that they should be classified as mine workers.
The Bloomfield Group disputes this, and says they have been properly classified and paid correctly.
Senior Deputy President Jonathan Hamberger of the Fair Work Commission has written to the parties confirming the lodging of the dispute, with an initial teleconference scheduled for next Tuesday, August 14.
The Bloomfield Group is one of the Hunter’s biggest privately owned businesses, with its main assets being the Bloomfield and Rixs Creek open-cut mines.
Four Mile Pty Ltd operates from a workshop on Bloomfield Group land near the Bloomfield colliery site and the tradesmen say that they only ever worked for Bloomfield or Rixs Creek collieries.
Responding, Bloomfield Group said: “Four Mile workers are not coal miners.
“They provide specialist component repair, maintenance and transportation services, usually away from our mining sites.
“The Bloomfield Group confirms that a renewed enterprise agreement with our Four Mile employees was voted up by the employees during the week. The new agreement is based on the Manufacturing Industries Award, which has been the case since Four Mile commenced operations several decades ago.”
The workers acknowledged the vote, but criticised the agreement for deleting a clause they said previously specified their workplaces as Bloomfield and Rixs Creek mines. They said it was the only way to get a pay rise, and was not unanimous. They had lodged various documents with Fair Work to support their case.