The Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union (CFMEU) has slammed a proposed decision by the Fair Work Commission (FWC) to cap coal mine workers’ redundancy payments after a maximum of 15 years.
On Friday, the FWC’s full bench proposed the Black Coal Mining Industry Award redundancy entitlement should be capped at 15 years or 30 weeks.
This would remove the current entitlement where redundancy payments remain uncapped.
“It is a decision that not only deprives employees of fair benefits at a time of retrenchments but it will impact significantly on many regional economies where these mine employees and their families live and spend their money,” CFMEU national president Tony Maher said.
Coal mine workers are currently entitled to one week’s severance pay for each year of work, and in terms of retrenchment, two weeks pay per year of employment.
The proposed decision comes after a previous 60-year aged cap for coal mine workers because of the health issues due to the industry.
The age limit was then removed in 2015 after it was deemed discriminatory.
Last year, the Coal Mining Industry Employer Group (CMIEG), which represents several mining companies including Glencore, BHP Billiton and Anglo American, called for redundancy payments to be capped at nine years or 27 weeks of service.
The bench said it was appropriate to implement redundancy scheme due to its “acceptance by employers and employees in the industry over many years”, the AFR reports.
It suggested that the cap would be required “to restore the industrial balance in the scheme in a non-discriminatory way”.
Maher added that the proposed decision was “far reaching” and “an absolute disgrace”.
“It will cost employees throughout Australia hundreds of millions in lost earnings and for what? – to swell the bloated coffers of mainly foreign multinational companies that ship the vast majority of their profits overseas,” he said.
The union is considering an appeal against the decision after holding a meeting with lawyers.