Mineworkers to be paid for public holiday even if not at work

CONSTRUCTION Forestry Mining and Energy Union members at specialist contractor Wilson Mining will receive backpay for public holidays that fell on rostered days off after a decision by the Fair Work Commission.
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The decision effectively confirms mineworkers can be eligible for public holiday loading even if they are not at work.

Wilson's Enterprise Agreement states mineworkers who are rostered off on a public holiday should receive an additional eight hours ordinary time pay plus average bonus.

However, Wilson stopped paying the entitlement in 2017, arguing workers on a day off were not entitled to the additional payment.

The Fair Work Commission disagreed.

In a case brought by the CFMEU, the FWC ruled that a rostered day off is not the same as a non-working day.

On the continuous 24-hour rosters that operate in the coal mining industry, there are no non-working days.

Rather, every day is covered by a roster, with some workers rostered on and some rostered off.

FWC deputy president Ingrid Asbury said the Black Coal Mining Industry Award was designed to recognise that coal miners were often required to work public holidays but had no choice over when they would be required to work.

"Employees often work long hours in concentrated periods and then have blocks of days off," she said.

"The employees are required to commit to a roster and to be available in accordance with that roster. They have little if any choice about when they will take a rostered day off and those days are allocated in advance throughout the roster.

"The employer has the right to operate a roster on any day the employer requires work to be performed, including weekends and public holidays.

"Provisions of coal industry awards [and other awards] which entitle employees to be paid for public holidays falling on rostered days off are not new and are directed to addressing the position of employees who do not work on a public holiday by virtue of the rotation or cycles of the roster under which they are required to work."

Queensland District Legal Officer Chris Newman said the decision was relevant across the black coal industry.

Many permanent employees are on salaries that take payment for public holidays into account but others, like those at Wilson, receive an hourly rate and may be missing out, according to the CFMEU.