Battle over miner redundancy continues
Wednesday 30 November 2016
What miners are entitled to after redundancy, continues to be the subject of intense debate at Fair Work Australia where the coal industry award is undergoing a four-year review.
The Coal Mining Industry Employer Group (CMIEG) wants to cap redundancy payments after nine years of service arguing; “there is no rational basis or obvious justification for the exceptionally generous entitlement, other than that it was the product of historically negotiated outcomes reached in 1973 and 1983”.
However mining union the CFMEU and APESMA (a group that represents mining professionals) are challenging that argument saying that redundancy payments should remain uncapped, because of the unique nature of working in the coal sector.
A notable argument debated this month was a suggestion by CMEIG that the incidence of redundancy in the black coal industry is similar to that in the economy overall, and therefore did not justify the “exceptionally generous” redundancy entitlements.
However APESMA argued that their interpretation of the data CMEIG used to draw that conclusion, suggested coal mine employees are more than twice as likely to be retrenched than employees generally, and if retrenched, twice as likely to suffer a drop in conditions.
APESMA also challenged the CMIEG assertion that the earlier “removal” of the cap fundamentally altered the nature of the industry redundancy scheme.
“What was fundamental to the scheme was that it was based on years of service, and was uncapped, subject only to a provision that was intended to avoid ‘windfall’ to those about to retire,” APESMA said.
“Of 339 employees retrenched by Centennial between 1 January 2013 and 31 December 2015, only 6 had service of 40 years or more.
"Of the six, three were younger than 60 years old, and 192 of the 339 had more than nine years’ service.
“Other material produced by Centennial similarly shows that the length of service of retirees is in an overwhelming majority of cases less than forty years.
"Of the approximately 200 workers listed had a length of service above 40 years at the time they retired and another 7 had a length of service above 35 years.”
The redundancy clause in the coal mining award represents a huge amount of money to both employees and employers.
To put it in dollar terms, a Mine Manager earning around $250,000 a year if made redundant would be entitled to a maximum of around $130,000 under the CMEIG proposal (assuming no special conditions in their employment contract). A redundant haul truck driver would receive no more than about $65,000 after a lifetime of service.
In contrast, if an employee had worked for a single mining company their whole working life (assumed 43 years) as a truck operator, their redundancy would be $310,000 and more than double that for a mine manager.
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