Peak union slams mining profits as workers struggle

Unions have slammed the mining sector for fighting against new workplace laws, saying it would only impact a minute fraction of their combined $300 billion profit last financial year.

Mining profits had jumped almost 200 per cent in the past decade while wages had gone backwards six per cent in real terms, Australian Council of Trade Unions research found. 

Signing on to workplace law changes that are before the parliament would only cost the industry 0.016 per cent of its profit, the peak union body said. 

The new laws would close a loophole allowing companies to negotiate a rate of pay with workers then pay labour hire less.

ACTU secretary Sally McManus slammed mining giant BHP for claiming the labour hire crackdown would cost them $1.3 billion. 

This was 26 times higher than the entire sector faced according to the government's estimates, she said.

"The mining industry is so profitable it could give every single Australian worker a six per cent pay increase and still be the most profitable industry in Australia," she said.

"It's disgraceful they want to instead hold back all Australian workers from getting better workplace rights."

Iron ore truck
Mining profits have jumped almost 200 per cent in the past decade while wages have gone backwards.

Economy wide, labour hire workers earned $4700 less a year than other workers, she said. 

But the Minerals Council hit back, saying the mining sector benefited all Australians, with mining and energy companies paying more than $42 billion in tax in 2021/22 - more than 50 per cent of all corporate tax.

CEO Tania Constable also pointed to high wages, saying the average annual pay packet across the mining sector was $151,500, which was more than $50,000 above the national average.

"What we are seeing from the unions as they fight for relevance is increasingly desperate behaviour as they try and round up all businesses across Australia with the Albanese government’s destructive closing loopholes bill," she said.

The legislation would only "weaken the nation’s economic performance and resilience, push up the cost of living, undermine higher wages, and leave Australians worse off", she added.

"The bill doesn’t close loopholes, it closes businesses."

The labour hire law is a part of a suite of reforms currently before the parliament. 

But the government remains under pressure to pass the non-contentious elements of its own bill.

Independent senators David Pocock and Jacqui Lambie copied provisions from the omnibus bill that included laws to make it easier for first responders with post-traumatic stress disorder to access compensation and protections for workers facing domestic violence. 

The amendments to the Fair Work Act passed the Senate against the wishes of Labor - who did not want their bill split - and now sit before the government-controlled lower house. 

Employment Minister Tony Burke has not brought on the legislation for a vote and is instead pushing ahead with trying to pass the full bill, which is before an inquiry due to report back in February. 

If the amendments are not passed before parliament rises for the year in December, first responders and people facing domestic violence will not receive added benefits on the scheduled start date of January 1.

They will instead need to wait months for the protections, if the full bill passes the Senate at all, with the coalition opposed and key crossbenchers expressing concern over provisions in the full bill.

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