A decision by the Federal Court today that casual workers are entitled to paid leave if they work in on-going, regular arrangements is a major victory over rampant misuse of casual workers in coal mining.

CFMEU National President Tony Maher said today’s decision would have implications for the preferred business model of labour hire companies, which is based on driving down costs through casualisation.

The unanimous decision to uphold the court’s 2016 Skene v Workpac Federal Circuit Court judgment means that workers described as casuals by labour hire companies may not meet the definition of a casual worker under the Fair Work Act and may therefore be eligible to be paid annual leave and other entitlements.

The 2016 case involved Paul Skene, a fly-in fly-out truck driver employed as a casual for two and a half years in two Central Queensland coal mines by labour hire company Workpac.

The Federal Court found that Mr Skene could not properly be considered a ‘casual’ under the Fair Work Act due to the regular and continuous nature of his work on a fixed roster. The court decided Mr Skene was therefore entitled to receive accrued annual leave pay on termination of his employment.

“The labour hire industry has thrown substantial resources at overturning this decision because it employs many thousands of workers as casuals in the coal mining industry under similar circumstances to Mr Skene,” said CFMEU National President Tony Maher.

“Casualisation in coal mining is out of control,” he said.

“Labour hire employees are now a significant proportion of the workforce at most coal mines, with the vast majority employed casually.”

“In many cases they are casual in name only, working side by side with permanent employees on the same rosters over extended periods, but with no job security.”

“This decision challenges a flawed business model based on driving down costs by casualising large portions of the workforce. It means the end of the so-called ‘permanent casual’, which was always a rort.”

“The labour hire industry will cry foul over this decision – the answer for them is to employ people under proper workplace arrangements that reflect the real nature of their work.”

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