A federal parliamentary committee has called for a review into the use of labour hire workers and the number of casual employees in the mining sector.
It came after the Construction, Forestry, Maritime, Mining and Energy Union used its submission to the Commonwealth Parliamentary Inquiry into the Mining Sector to call for state and federal government intervention to address the “explosion in the use of labour hire workers by the big mining companies” since 2012.
The union said many casual employees were working fixed or slightly changing rostered days of up to 42 hours a week, but were not considered permanent staff so they went without entitlements such as paid sick leave and annual leave.
It called for the Fair Work Act to provide a “strong conversion rate” that automatically moved a casual to a permanent position after 12 months on the same or similar roster, or the right to ask for permanency after six months.
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The CFMMEU also pushed for the Act to include a definition of casual work that was “consistent with the traditional common law concept”.
The parliamentary committee, chaired by former Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce, released a report on Tuesday that recommended a federal review of the use of casual employees and labour hire workers.
It cited the CFMMEU’s submission and said changes to the law should be considered “in order to prohibit the move towards replacing directly-employed, full-time workers with ‘permanent casual’ employees, and other similar casualised employee types”.
“Changes to the Act should also include provisions that guarantee that employees have a legal right to convert from casual to permanent employment after a set period of time,” the recommendation said.
The CFMMEU’s submission said the casualisation of the mining workforce was “insidious” and referred to the union’s fight against the trend in regional mining communities, including Singleton and Muswellbrook.
It argued mining companies relied on casual workers from labour hire firms because they were paid an average of 30 per cent less than permanent staff and could be dismissed with no notice, for reasons such as inclement weather or machinery breakdowns, creating “first and second-class mineworkers”.
“I congratulate the committee for seeking and engaging with the views of the community in relation to casualisation and a range of other areas where mining companies are trashing their social license to operate, like ripping off small businesses with unfair terms of trade,” CFMMEU national president Tony Maher said on Tuesday.
The parliamentary inquiry focused on how the mining sector could support businesses in regional economies.