Mining and Heavy Industries, Staffing, Recruitment & Training

Workers should get bonuses despite strikes: FWC

Money. Photo: Jim Wilson

Mining companies should pay workers productivity allowances while they are on strike, according to a new decision from the Fair Work Commission.

Mining contractor Thiess argued it should not have had to pay a $441 weekly safety and production allowance to each of its employees at the Mt Owen mine during three months of strikes in 2012.

According to FWC documents, the work agreement in question combined a $105 weekly allowance based on Lost Time Injury goals, a $21 allowance on Restricted Work Injury measures, and a $315 weekly allowance based on an annual production target.

Thiess believes it shouldn’t have paid striking workers those allowances. A full bench decision from the FWC was handed down on October 2 rejected Thiess’ appeal.

The FWC determination was based on the fact that the allowances for production and safety were part of workers’ salaries, and thus could not be cancelled due to protected industrial action.

“The obligation to pay the allowance was not referable to the performance of work in any particular period,” the FWC reasoned, saying that “compels the further conclusion that the allowance was not payable in relation to the time during which employees of Thiess and Mt Owen engaged in industrial action had the employee worked during that period.”

The commission did not tell off Thiess for raising the appeal, however.

“Because the Thiess and Mt Owen appeals raised questions of interpretation of the agreement which were of some complexity and difficulty, we think it is appropriate to grant permission to appeal,” the decision reads.

“However for the reasons we have stated we consider that the conclusions reached by the [original FWC case], and the answers to the questions posed for determination, were correct.”

Accordingly, the FWC dismissed Thiess’ appeal.

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