Xstrata moved to simultaneously cut 122 jobs at its Ulan longwall mine and 158 from its Tahmoor operation in New South Wales last year.
Detailed in the decision paper, Xstrata Coal general manager of western and southern operations David Clifford revealed to the workplace tribunal that the cuts at Ulan were triggered by comments from an Xstrata senior executive on the size of the workforce at the mine.
A consequential review by Clifford and Ulan operations manager Murray Wood targeted 38 mine positions, consisting of 19 fixed-term and 19 permanent roles, along with six staff positions and 75 contractors.
However, Clifford also revealed that the mine added 11 trade-qualified miner positions as Xstrata sought to reduce downtime by boosting the number of workers with trade qualifications on some of its underground crews.
Ultimately 14 permanent mine workers were made redundant, with 10 taking up the union’s offer to take Xstrata to Fair Work Australia.
In determining whether the cuts fit genuine redundancy conditions, Commissioner Frank Raffaelli was not satisfied the jobs in question did not need to be performed by anyone else because of changes in the operational requirements of Ulan.
He also found that Xstrata had failed to hold discussions with the employees directly affected before the terminations occurred.
Four of the 14 terminated permanent workers later applied for jobs at Xstrata’s Ravensworth mine, but the tribunal found Ulan mainly relied on noticeboards to post information about alternative jobs.
“In my view a discussion with affected employees would have at least put such employment opportunities squarely before them,” Raffaelli said.
“The failure to hold discussions with employees directly affected is therefore likely to have had an impact on them.”
An Xstrata spokesperson told ILN the company had 21 days to respond to the decision made a week ago and was reviewing the decision by the commissioner.
He added there had been no change to the industrial action at Tahmoor and the company was still trying to continue negotiations for the new enterprise agreement.
Industrial action at Tahmoor started back in October and has involved limiting the output of the wash plant to no more than 200 tonnes per hour, directly hitting the operation’s bottom line.
The Fair Work Act states a person is unfairly dismissed if Fair Work Australia is satisfied the dismissal was not a case of genuine redundancy.