Nickel mine gets the workers without the agreement

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Nickel mine gets the workers without the agreement

Fair Work Australia has agreed to allow a mining company to ‘insource’ its maintenance work by taking on the employees of its maintenance contractor, but not applying the agreement they currently work under.

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Fair Work Australia (FWA) has agreed to allow a mining company to ‘insource’ its maintenance work by taking on the employees of its maintenance contractor, but not applying the agreement they currently work under.
 
Queensland Nickel’s maintenance work has up to now been done by employees who work for Transfield Services.
 
That arrangement terminates on 30 September 2009 and Queensland Nickel wants to have the work done by its own employees. It has advertised for workers and all but 17 of the 163 Transfield workers who are subject to the Transfield Agreement have applied for the new positions.
 
Queensland Nickel applied to FWA for the right to have the workers transfer to the company without the Transfield Agreement coming with them, as would normally be the case with a transfer of business.
 
Not compatible
 
Queensland Nickel argued that the terms of the Transfield Agreement would not be compatible with its Yabulu Refinery Industrial Employee Collective Agreement 2008 which incorporates:
  • annualised salaries subject to an annual review that incorporate a shift loading (ranging between $17,700 for a continuous shift worker and $12,700 for a non-continuous shift worker)
  • payment for excess hours above 48 hours per quarter (ie 4 hours per week) plus any training days paid at 12% of the base salary rate (including shift allowance)
  • an incentive scheme with potential to increase salary by between 10% and 15% of the base salary per annum
  • 11% company superannuation contribution (payable on the base salary plus the shift loading) and which includes salary continuance insurance
  • a standard redundancy entitlement of 14 weeks plus 2.5 weeks for each year of continuous service).
 
Paid weekly, get overtime
 
By contrast, workers on the Transfield Agreement are paid weekly and get overtime.
 
Queensland Nickel argued that bringing in the Transfield Agreement would mean it would have ‘two distinctive and disparate’ employment systems and this would cause it to suffer economic damage.
 
The company said it would need to meet the costs of maintaining two starkly contrasting sets of employment arrangements: one where employees are paid an annualised salary monthly and where there is little overtime and few other exception-type payments; and the other where employees are paid weekly wages, and employees are paid overtime, penalties and allowances.
 
Little synergy
 
FWA Senior Deputy President Peter Richards said there appears to be very little synergy between the two sets of terms and conditions under discussion.
 
‘That is to say, the two agreements do not complement one another,’ he said.
 
A ballot of the workers concerned resulted in 96 of the 146 relevant employees voting, with 70 in favour of the Yabulu agreement, 18 against and eight invalid votes.
 
SDP Richards said the terms and conditions of employment [of the Yabulu agreement] ‘appear generally to be considerably superior in stark earnings potential and other conditions (such as superannuation and redundancy) to those of employees on the Transfield Agreement’.
 
‘There are clearly some views to the contrary [a reference to the ballot outcome], which may hold the employment model based on salaried arrangements and flexible hours has less appeal for other reasons, including qualitative ones,’ he said.
 
No disadvantage
 
He said FWA had to satisfy itself under s318(3)(b) of the Act that ‘overall, the employees would not be disadvantaged’.
 
SDP Richards said the unions involved had not sought to make submissions and had reached an agreement with Queensland Nickel in relation to some features of the industrial framework to apply at the workplace.
 
He said he was satisfied that the order sought should be made.
 
 
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