Mining industry wants industrial awards scrapped in favour of contracts

The mining industry has called for scrapping of awards and the ability for highly paid workers to opt out of the collective bargaining system.

Mar 31, 2022, updated Mar 31, 2022
Metarock has changed management again to resolve financial difficulties (file photo)

Metarock has changed management again to resolve financial difficulties (file photo)

At a Brisbane Club function today, the mining industry’s industrial representative the Australian Mines and Metals Association, said even big business had difficulty dealing with the overly complex industrial awards system.

“If these awards made sense and were easy to follow, why are large organisations like our $1 billion-plus taxpayer funded ABC incapable of avoiding significant underpayments?” AMMA chief executive Steve Knott said.

“It shouldn’t be beyond the capability of our policy makers to abolish awards and come up with a simpler system.”

Citing the ABC again, Knott said $12 million “went missing” from the national broadcaster from underpayments.

“Similar mistakes have caught out many well-resourced companies like Woolworths, Coles, McDonalds, Clayton Utz, Macquarie and the Commonwealth Bank

He said workers earning above the unfair dismissal threshold of $158,000 should be allowed to voluntarily leave the industrial relations system. Many mining industry workers would earn above that level.

Abolishing the over-complicated awards system, capping compensation claims, revitalising enterprise bargaining and introducing individual agreements were all part of AMMA plans.

But it said the major political parties were not supportive.

Knott said the Coalition was not proposing any meaningful industrial reforms while Labor was “pushing the same divisive, protectionist policies” that failed to get public support three years ago.

“As has been its trend since the Howard government was removed from office in 2007, the Coalition sees industrial relations as a losing area and is offering nothing substantial on IR, likely fearing it would only add fuel to union and ALP scare campaigns,” he said.

Knott said his organisation, which represents some of the country’s biggest companies, supported a safety net with world-class minimum standards and conditions that could be easily understood.

The industry has been involved in a legal war with unions of casualisation of labour at mine sites, which includes the use of labour hire firms and Knott singled out Labor’s “some job, same pay” campaign as ” massive beat up.

He said in the past three years casual employment in the mining sector averaged about 13 per cent.

“Australia _ with our population of 26 million _ is the only nation in the world that overlays an industrial awards system on top of its national minimum standards. As a result, our IR legislation contained over two million words, nearly three times that of the Holy Bible’s old and new testaments,” Knott said.

“If these awards made sense and were easy to follow, why are large organisations like out $1 billion-plus taxpayer funded ABC incapable of avoiding underpayment scandals?”

The Mining and Energy Union general president Tony Maher said AMMA had an extreme agenda and can’t even get support from their own side for it.

“In the mining industry, employers are always on the look-out for new and creative ways to drive down workers’ pay and conditions. A favourite method is sidestepping Enterprise Agreements negotiated with employees in good faith by outsourcing jobs to labour hire companies. Awards are therefore critical for setting minimum industry standards,” he said.

“The protections of our IR system don’t only cover pay; they are there to make sure workers are treated in line with community expectations when it comes to leave, breaks, shift penalties and work hours.

“Mineworkers put their lives on the line for companies to reap the rewards of high commodity prices – they need all the protection they can get. ”



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