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Union-win in Australia with legislation on contract workers

7 December, 2023In a major victory for (labour-hire) contract workers across Australia, new legislation has passed that ensures that contract workers are paid the same as permanent workers performing the same role. 

The legislation received support from the Federal Parliament on 7 December 2023 and aims to prevent employers from undermining union-negotiated rates of pay, particularly in the mining industry, where some large employers pay contract workers less than their permanent counterparts for the same job.

IndustriALL affiliate the Mining and Energy Union (MEU) general secretary Grahame Kelly expressed gratitude to Senators for supporting the common-sense measures that address the misuse of contract workers to drive down wages.

"Labour hire exploitation is out of control in the mining industry, and workers have been raising this issue for many years,"

said Kelly.

"It is a relief to have a Government who has listened to workers’ concerns and developed targeted legislation in response."

The Same Job Same Pay provisions in the legislation provide a mechanism to prevent companies from paying contract workers less than permanent employees doing the same job when a collective bargaining agreement is in place at the work site.

In Australia, these laws will most affect the mining sector and airline transport sectors where outsourcing to contractors is rife. 

The Same Job Same Pay provisions were part of the broader Fair Work Legislation Amendment (Closing Loopholes) Bill 2023, which also includes criminalizing wage theft, stronger rights for workplace delegates, better support for first responders diagnosed with PTSD, strengthened protections against discrimination for employees facing family and domestic violence, inclusion of silica-related diseases and safety within the Asbestos Safety and Eradication Agency, and the criminalization of industrial manslaughter.

With these new measures, labour-hire workers in Australia can look forward to fairer treatment and enhanced protections, marking a positive step toward a more equitable and just working environment.

“This legislation is great news to IndustriALL; it not only promises a fairer and more equitable compensation for workers but also shows a broader commitment to rectifying systemic inequalities, especially in the mining sector. These types of union wins are encouraging and positively impacting the lives of precarious workers across Australia,”

says Atle Høie, IndustriALL Global Union general secretary.

Photo: The Mining and Energy Union (MEU) Australia