Union victory over ‘permanent casual’ rort in mining

Published: 16 Aug 2018

The Full Federal Court has today upheld a decision that casual workers are entitled to paid leave if they work in on-going, regular arrangements.

This is a major victory over rampant misuse of casual labour hire workers in coal mining and the broader workforce.

The decision to uphold the court’s 2016 Skene v Federal Circuit Court judgment means that workers described as casuals by labour hire companies may not meet the definition of a casual worker under the Fair Work Act and may therefore be eligible for annual leave and other entitlements.

The 2016 case involved CFMEU member Paul Skene, a fly in fly out haul truck operator employed as a casual by labour hire company Workpac in two Central Queensland coal mines for two and a half years. The Federal Court found that Mr Skene could not properly be considered a casual under the Fair Work Act due to the regular and continuous nature of his work on a fixed roster. The court decided Mr Skene was therefore entitled to receive accrued annual pay on termination of his employment.

The labour hire industry has thrown substantial resources at overturning this decision because it employs many thousands of workers as casuals in the coal mining industry under similar circumstances to Mr Skene.

CFMEU National President Tony Maher said the case would cause alarm in the mining industry, where use of casual labour hire workers is out of control.

“Labour hire employees are now a significant proportion of the workforce at most coal mines, with the vast majority employed casually.

“In many cases they are casual in name only, working side by side with permanent employees on the same rosters over extended periods, but with no job security.

“This decision challenges a flawed business model based on driving down costs by casualising large portions of the workforce. It means the end of the so-called ‘permanent casual’, which was always a contradiction in terms and a rort.

“The labour hire industry will cry foul over this decision – the answer for them is to employ people on proper arrangements that reflect the real nature of their work.”

The CFMEU will continue to fight against the casualisation of our industries and for workers’ rights to secure employment.