Miner denied workplace accident pay leads class action suit
Summary: Coal miner Simon Turner is facing life on the street after a workplace accident left him disabled and destitute.....
The 47-year-old suffered spinal injuries after the truck he was operating at the Mt Arthur coal mine in the NSW Hunter Valley was hit by a coal excavator in 2015.
He has been deemed totally incapacitated, but the mine owner, BHP and labour hire company Chandler Macleod, have refused to pay him the industry standard accident compensation.
Mr Turner was denied accident pay because he was classified as a casual worker.
He currently receives $411 per week, instead of the $1,800 per week he would have received under the award, as a permanent employee.
Mr Turner is now leading a class action of more than 400 miners, which will allege that BHP and labour hire companies Chandler Macleod and Tesa hired them as a casuals to avoid paying them entitlements worth about $20,000 per annum.
"I hate it. We do exactly the same job, work the same hours and are exposed to the same dangerous conditions, yet they pay us about half of what the BHP employees get," Mr Turner said.
"Basically, we want to be treated as normal humans and [be] paid exactly the same as everyone else for doing the same job and working the same hours.
"All anybody wants is a fair go and to provide for their family and kids and have a decent life, being treated and employed like this has removed all of that, it can't happen.
"You can't go and get a loan, you can do anything, they say you're casual."
Lawyer Rory Markham, from Chamberlains Law Firm, told the ABC the claimants would allege that BHP was involved with Chandler Macleod and Tesa over a period of six years to casualise its workforce.
"The move by the industry to casualise its workforce has exploded since 2010 in a system that is meant to prohibit casualised workers. These contractors are being treated like second-class workers," he said.
Mr Markham said the class action would challenge the legal basis for employing casual mine workers and would have implications for mining companies across Australia.
The workers have been backed by Augusta Ventures, an Australian-UK based litigation funder, to advance the claims in the Federal Court of Australia.
Mt Arthur is the largest coal mine in NSW, with a production workforce, including direct employees and labour hire contractors, of about 1,900 people.
'I'll be out on the street'
The claimants will allege the contractors at the mine are treated exactly like the permanent employees they work alongside on their crews every shift.
Both groups are expected to work a full roster, published up until the end of 2019 and both are required to submit leave requests to BHP up to four weeks in advance.
Mr Turner is hoping the class action will lead to change, but it will be too late to spare him from eviction next week.
"I'll be moving into my car and I'll be out on the street," he said.
"I've got nowhere to go and I don't have anybody I can go to. I'll be in the car with my injuries."
A spokesman for BHP said the company would respond to the court process.
In a statement, Chandler Macleod said: "Our employees are covered by, and paid in accordance with, the relevant Enterprise Agreement and we comply with all workers' compensation obligations. We've not been notified by Chamberlains of any action against us."
A spokeswoman for labour hire company Programmed, which has acquired Tesa, said it was not aware of any non-compliance employment matters.