BHP has raised concerns about the Australian Government’s proposed job reforms.
The expected reforms will require employers to pay labour hire workers the same rate as direct employees doing the same job.
Though an agreeable sentiment, the ‘same job, same pay’ reforms are leaving many, including BHP Minerals Australia president Geraldine Slattery, concerned.
“It feels very much like an old solution to a very different environment,” Slattery told the Australian Financial Review (AFR) business summit.
Employers are concerned the reform will further constrain an already tight – and expensive – labour market.
In December, the Australian Bureau of Statistics revealed that the nation’s mining sector has a significant proportion of vacant positions compared to previous years.
With a labour and skills shortage across the industry, it’s not clear exactly what effect the proposed reforms will have on the labour hire market. However, the AFR reported that some labour hire owners described the law as an existential threat.
“Pegging all work to the same high-water mark in terms of pay breaks, the link between cost of labour and productivity,” Slattery said. “It also removes flexibility on both sides both for the employer and employee.
“People want to have choice in how they work and how they are rewarded, so we are quite concerned about it.”
BHP has its own approach to dealing with labour hire: the company’s operation services (OS) division.
The division plucked thousands of casual and temporary contractors out of labour hire firms and offered them full-time positions in the company.
However, OS has been under scrutiny by FairWork Commission since its inception.
The commission rejected two key OS workplace agreements in 2020, citing BHP’s failure to secure sufficient consent by the employees covered by the agreement.
Additionally, the commission held that workers covered by the enterprise agreement were not “better off overall” compared to those under comparable workplace agreements in the mining industry.
But BHP maintained that the OS division gives its employees more choice over their work and rewards.
How the OS division will be affected by the coming reforms remains to be seen.