Nationals fail Hunter coal workers

Claims by Nationals Senator Matt Canavan and Member for Upper Hunter Michael Johnsen that they have legislated to protect casual workers in the mining industry are completely untrue.

In a desperate attempt to appear supportive of hardworking coal mining families in the lead up to the election, Matt Canavan and Michael Johnsen have concocted a fanciful story to deflect from years of inaction and failure to deliver the rights and conditions local coal workers deserve.

“Canavan and Johnsen’s comments about the Nationals protecting workers’ job security is misleading and false. Contrary to their claims, this government has done nothing for Australian workers, particularly those stuck in casual work in the mining industry here in the Hunter,” Federal Member for Hunter Joel Fitzgibbon said.

“The government has once again refused to put workers first, by failing to bring on the Fair Work Amendment (Right to Request Casual Conversion) Bill for debate.”

“For five years this government has denied there is a problem in the Hunter Valley coal industry with casualisation and precarious work.”

Increasingly, the oxymoronic term “permanent casual” is being used by employers to describe their employees. This means thousands of people in the Hunter’s coal industry have been working like a full time employee for years on end, but not knowing from day to day or week to week whether they still have a job, or how much money they will take home.

“While there are local workers who like the flexibility that casual work provides, for too many it means no sick leave, no holiday pay, no workers compensation, no overtime and no job security. It means they cannot get a home loan, finance for a car, or plan ahead,” Country Labor candidate for Upper Hunter Melanie Dagg said.

Federal and State Labor want to make sure people in the Hunter aren’t stuck in the purgatory of permanent casualisation, with all the hours and commitment to a full-time job but none of the conditions.

“We want people working in the Hunter coal mining industry to be able to plan for the long-term, to be able to take out a home loan, a car loan, to start a family, a relationship, to have confidence that their future plans and dreams can be realised,” Mrs Dagg said.

“In stark contrast to this government, Labor has had a policy since 2016 to legislate an objective definition of casual to provide greater clarity and certainty for employers and employees,” Mr Fitzgibbon said.

“This is part of a comprehensive package of reforms that would improve conditions for Hunter coal mining families including restoring penalty rates; cracking down on sham contracting; labour hire regulation to ensure those workers are paid the same as directly employed staff doing the same job; ten days paid domestic violence leave; tighter regulation of the gig economy; a crackdown of sham enterprise agreements; and greater penalties for the exploitation of workers.

It’s time the Nationals were truthful about their lack of support for Hunter workers and followed Labor by putting workers and decent jobs first.

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