Government intervention on casuals ruling gives big business the green light to exploit workers

Published: 19 Oct 2018

Federal Government intervention on behalf of business to wind back the WorkPac v Skene Federal Court decision will give big mining companies the green light to keep exploiting casual workers in permanent, on-going roles.

Despite employer rhetoric about the impact on small business, the Skene decision responds to the exploitative practices of the world’s biggest, richest, multinational mining companies, said CFMEU National President Tony Maher.

“Mining companies have been ruthless pioneers of the ‘permanent casual’ work model exposed by the case successfully run by the CFMEU on behalf of coal miner Paul Skene,” said Mr Maher.

“WorkPac supplies labour to global mining giants BHP, Glencore and AngloAmerican. Paul Skene worked at a Rio Tinto coal mine in Central Queensland.

"These are no mum-and-dad outfits.

“False claims of a multi-billion dollar outbreak of worker ‘double-dipping’ affecting small business are a distraction from the systematic casualisation of permanent jobs by big business.

“Minister O’Dwyer’s announcement today is a slap in the face for casual workers who the full federal court has found have been ripped off by their employers through underpayment of entitlements.”

Mr Maher said the CFMEU would continue to defend the principle of the Skene decision and pursue claims for mineworkers falsely classified as casuals.

Background regarding WorkPac v Skene:

  • The case was run over four years by the CFMEU on behalf of coal miner Paul Skene.
  • Paul Skene worked at two large coal mines in Central Queensland as a Fly In Fly Out worker, with a full-time roster 12 months in advance. He was employed by WorkPac as a casual but under direct supervision of mine operator Rio Tinto.
  • Skene’s argument was that his work arrangement did not fit the legal definition of a ‘casual’ and the Full Federal Court agreed. He was therefore owed annual leave entitlements under the National Employment Standards.
  • The facts of WorkPac v Skene are unlikely to be replicated in other industries where casual employment is closer to the legal definition: irregular, intermittent and unpredictable.
  • There is no capacity for employees to double dip on casual loading and leave entitlements if they are correctly classified, because the casual loading only applies to true casuals.
  • Casual labour hire workers now make up to half or more of the workforce at Australian coal mines. They work on the same rosters and perform the same work as permanent workers, but are paid approximately 30% less, with no job security or entitlements.


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Authorised by Michael O'Connor, National Secretary, 540 Elizabeth St Melbourne Vic 3000